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You shouldn't call something a breakthrough when it's in a Phase I trial

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Stem cell medical breakthrough? That’s the headline appearing throughout the entire video of a story on CNN’s website about a stem cell experiment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.

The story profiles one man who had stem cells injected into his spine as part of the trial. They used a sound bite of him saying, “I do feel like I’m gaining strength every day,” which he admits later may be the placebo effect.

This is important research. It doesn’t need hyperbole to sell its merits. It needs evidence.
This is a Phase I trial. It’s far too early to be calling anything like that a breakthrough – even with a question mark following it.

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Comments (4)

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Elaine Schattner, M.D.

May 7, 2010 at 11:09 am

I agree fully.
The thing is, the issue of misrepresenting and overplaying new data doesn’t just apply to TV news. Sometimes doctors, in their offices, offer patients hope in this very form, saying something like “I’ve heard about a new treatment for your condition…” Patients, if they trust their doctors (which still does happen), sometimes enroll in Phase I trials without really understanding what it is they’re doing.
For the most part, people expect hype on TV. The deeper danger, in my opinion, is in the private realm, during real doctor-patient conversations on new treatments.

Rogue Medic

May 12, 2010 at 11:59 am

That is not as bad as when Dr. Gupta reports on brain death, which Dr. Gupta claims is reversible.