NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine -

Can we remove “gamechanger” from the health care news lexicon?

Posted By


The latest example is news out of the European Cancer Congress (ECC) in Amsterdam.

Roche immunotherapy drug may be ‘game changer’ in lung cancer – Reuters reported.  Excerpt: 

Of 53 patients with NSCLC tumours treated with the drug, 23 percent saw their tumours shrink, according to results presented at the European Cancer Congress (ECC) in Amsterdam.

But the most encouraging numbers were among smokers, where the response rate was 26 percent compared with 10 percent of patients who had never smoked, said Professor Jean-Charles Soria of France’s Institut Gustave Roussy, who led the study.

So they drilled down into the data more closely, separating out the 81 percent of the 53 patients who were smokers or former smokers, and the 19 percent of them who were not.

“And bingo, this is the first targeted agent (drug) that shows more activity in smokers than in non-smokers,” Soria told reporters in a briefing at the ECC.

81 percent of 53 patients?  Why this awkward explanation?  Why not just do the math for readers?

Yes, this is a difficult cancer to treat.

But it’s not a game.

And even sportswriters would provide more about the numbers than this story gave.  Missing was any information about the degree of the response rate or tumor shrinkage.  And not a word about the period of followup, leaving one to wonder whether the tumor shrinkage that was observed might be a surrogate or intermediate endpoint that doesn’t equate to a truly meaningful clinical outcome such as living better or longer.

But we can’t know that from the sparse details provided.

26% response in 81% of 53 patients who were smokers or former smokers = some tumor shrinkage in 11 people.

Maybe we should keep the gamechanger pronouncement on the sideline until we get more data or more longterm experience in more people.


Follow us on Twitter:

and on Facebook.


You might also like

Comments (1)

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.

Comments are closed.