60 Minutes piece on Kanzius cancer cure not worth 60 seconds

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One of the worst stories by a major news organization on a health care topic was turned in by CBS’ 60 Minutes last Sunday with a piece it entitled on its website, “The Kanzius Machine: A Cancer Cure?”

The story was reviewed on HealthNewsReview.org and given one of the lowest ratings possible. The review summary stated, in part:

If the report were to be done and broadcast on 60 Minutes, it would have benefited considerably from additional context provided by other credible researchers. Did CBS look for and fail to find anyone skeptical of this technique? None was interviewed.

The story has elements that make it appealing as an act of infotainment: a lone-wolf outsider who can cure cancer with pie pans and hot dogs, a man motivated by his desire to help “hollow-eyed kids” with cancer, and hopeful researchers with impressive institutional affiliations, including a Nobel laureate said to have turned from skeptic to believer by the time he died from cancer.

But good stories don’t always make good journalism. This is such a case.

The segment is likely to raise hopes, clearly prematurely if not falsely, of millions of people affected by cancer, or even cancer risk. This is the opposite of public service.

The most disturbing aspect of the segment was its one-sidedness, its lack of context and independent perspective. And given that these segments run about 15 minutes, CBS can’t hide behind the excuse that this is TV and we don’t have enough airtime to go into great depth.

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Comments

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Dr. Fred Klug

April 17, 2008 at 8:13 am

I agree the piece was one-sided, but it should not be viewed as a magic bullet and the final word on curing cancer. It readily noted that additional study is needed.
On the other side of the coin, who can trust so-called credible research when drug companies write studies for experts to lend there name and reputation (cf. NY Times “Merck Wrote Drug Studies for Doctors”)? I for one take anything Big Pharm says with a large grain of salt, although that’s giving salt a bad name.

Glenn.Isaac

April 18, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Support the research! If it pans out, it’ll be big. If it doesn’t pan out, it’ll lead to something else that’ll be big. Either way, I think its good to follow every intelligent lead we can for something so revolutionary.

The Publisher

April 18, 2008 at 1:21 pm

Not sure if Glenn Isaac was posting a shout out to everyone or whether he was delivering a message to me as Publisher.
If the former, go for it.
If the latter, please understand that I neither “support” nor “oppose” the research. In my heart, I hope it pans out. But this blog comments on journalism, which is all I did in my original post. And it is NOT the job of journalism to support research. It is the job of journalism to investigate, to question, to be a healthy skeptic and to publish or broadcast a balanced final product. This was not done in the case of the 60 Minutes piece.

Gary Seagraffe

April 28, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Schwitz, I think 60 minutes did a great job. Obviously you know nothing about science or else your comments wouldn’t have been so terse. I make silver and gold nanoparticles. I know what they can do and cancer is just a tip of the iceberg.
It’s too bad that skeptics like you exist. We would forever be spinning our wheels in a mire of doubt as you have obviously come from the public education system.

The Publisher

April 28, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Gary Seagraffe,
Normally I won’t post ad hominem attacks such as the one you sent. And I probably won’t post a personal attack like yours again.
But I’m going to post yours because I want to point how wrong you are.
1. I know more science than you might want to give me credit for. And so do the two-dozen-plus scientists and academic researchers who help do the reviews of such stories on HealthNewsReview.org. So that’s error #1.
2. You clearly did not read what this blog and what HealthNewsReview.org are about. As I already wrote in a previous comment, “Please understand that I neither “support” nor “oppose” the research. In my heart, I hope it pans out. But this blog comments on journalism, which is all I did in my original post. And it is NOT the job of journalism to support research. It is the job of journalism to investigate, to question, to be a healthy skeptic and to publish or broadcast a balanced final product. This was not done in the case of the 60 Minutes piece.” So that’s error #2 – not reading what we’re all about and where our expertise resides.
I don’t question your knowledge of silver and gold nanoparticles.
Please exercise a little respect for one who has worked in and tried to improve health, medical and science journalism for 35 years – and for the team of experts that conduct story reviews on HealthNewsReview.org.
The Publisher