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Reasonable report by CBS on pediatric proton beam therapy

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There has been so much hype of proton beam therapy – especially for prostate cancer – much of it dismissing any discussion of lack of evidence and soaring costs. Given that backdrop, it was refreshing to see a Sanjay Gupta piece on CBS last night that exercised some restraint in reporting on proton beam therapy for pediatric brain tumors.

Strong points:

• CBS had one sound bite with an independent expert stressing the need for evidence, especially given the approach’s high cost.
• The high cost was emphasized three times in the piece – $100,000 per treatment.
• It was emphasized that it may take a decade to have sufficient evidence.

Weaker points:

• Gupta showed off the technology’s “gantry, cyclotron and snout” but this was just high-tech gobbledygook that wasn’t necessary. Rather, he could have mentioned the $125-225 million investment medical centers must make in such technology.
• Too much emphasis and time on the little girl’s “cuteness.” Is it less of a story if she weren’t “cute”?

Nonetheless, I somehow feel the hand of CBS producers in the restraint and context in this piece, especially when Katie Couric followed up by asking Gupta, “As exciting as this is, it’s very new and very expensive, right?”


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