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Drug shows promise treating breast cancer


3 Star

Drug shows promise treating breast cancer

Our Review Summary

Recently completed clinical trials have shown that zolendric acid, marketed as Zometa, may help prevent recurrence of early stage breast cancer and may reduce the risk of metastasis to the bone when given in addition to conventional therapies.   This drug also prevents bone loss that is associated with cancer treatment.   The potential benefits of zolendric acid are important and could point to a new treatment strategy that is more effective and has fewer side effects than current options. 

This article communicates information about ongoing investigation of the use of zolendric acid at a high level.  However, the story is brief – 405 words – and omits key details and facts about the drug and ongoing research that are needed to provide the reader a complete and informed story.  It would be useful to the reader to present some of the downsides of treatment, including a potentially long and costly duration of treatment.  The story also should have explained who is likely to benefit based on who was included in the trials.  No independent source was interviewed; someone needed to address the researcher’s claim that the drug might someday be used in all women with breast cancer. 


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Cost of the drug, approximately $1,200 per treatment (including physician fees), is not mentioned in this article.  Information from Zometa’s manufacturer, Novartis, indicates that the drug is given by infusion every three to four weeks.  Cost-effectiveness has not been widely researched. Some studies suggests that zolendric acid is a relatively expensive therapy, as is the case for many agents used in oncology. 

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

This article does not quantify the benefits of treatment.  (Also see Evidence comments.)

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


This article indicates that zolendric acid has few side effects and that those are temporary and occur after the drug is administered intravenously.  Ideally this information would be provided by an expert instead of from a patient interview.  However, research does support the patient’s statements that zolendric acid is well-tolerated but side effects can include bone pain and a temporary but acute reaction when the drug is administered.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

This article briefly mentions two recent studies that indicate zolendric acid may lower the risk of breast cancer recurrence and metastases. However, it provides no details of these and does not report other effects of the drug in counteracting bone loss that occurs from the use of traditional adjuvant therapies for breast cancer.   This article indicated that length of treatment in the on-going study was 2 1/2 years.  Preliminary studies have administered the drug for five years.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No overt disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

Only one source was interviewed – an investigator in the trials. No independent experts were interviewed for balance. The article also does not adequately document its sources.  For example, the journals in which recent studies have been published were not mentioned.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

This article does not describe conventional breast cancer treatments other than a brief mention of chemotherapy. The story was vague about specifics of who would likely qualify and at what point in treatment this decision would be addressed.  The physician quote – ""From what we can tell right now, this could potentially be applied to all women" with breast cancer" –  has not been substantiated by available research and should have been addressed by an independent expert.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


This article clearly states that Zometa (zolendric acid) is being tested as a new treatment for breast cancer.  It states the approved uses for the drug in treating high blood levels of calcium, often caused by cancerous tumors, and for the treatment of osteoporosis.  (See Costs of Treatment comments.)

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story appropriately portrayed the research on zolendric acid for this indication as novel.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure if the story relied solely or largely on a news release. We do know that the story included quotes from only one researcher.

Total Score: 4 of 9 Satisfactory


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