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Test may help predict colon cancer recurrence risk

Rating

4 Star

Test may help predict colon cancer recurrence risk

Our Review Summary

Whether to give chemotherapy after surgery for localized colon cancer is controversial. Chemotherapy has significant side effects and the survival benefit is small. As is currently done for breast cancer, to be able to predict whether the tumor is likely to return after surgery would help guide treatment decisions about chemotherapy. This story reports on new results on a gene test for colon cancer tumors to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting.

Unfortunately the new test was only modestly able to predict colon cancer recurrence and failed to predict response to chemotherapy. Future research is clearly needed.

This story adequately represents the novelty and availability of the test. It does not engage in disease mongering and is clear on the target of the test – colon cancers that are large but have not spread beyond the colon. It quotes multiples sources and is clear to point out who is invested in the development of the test.

The story could have been improved by describing what is currently done to determine need for chemotherapy (i.e. pathology and/or imaging tests), by providing the baseline average risk of recurrence as a comparison to the predicted risk from the  test, and by describing potential harms of the test.

Finally, the story doesn’t really give any details on the current study or the overall strength of the evidence to support the use of the test. Although the story points out that the results will be presented at a meeting, it should have made the point that these studies are not rigorously peer-reviewed and evaluated prior to presentation, which makes it more difficult to evaluate the study at this time.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story describes the cost of a similar existing test for breast cancer but is clear to point out that exact costs are not yet available. The story also mentions several times that the high cost of the test may not be worth the expense.

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

Satisfactory

The story does provide a range of percentage risk of having a recurrence. The story could have provided the baseline average risk by way of comparison and could have described what the expected benefit in terms of improved survival could potentially be.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not describe any harms of the test. Because the test does not predict whether an individual would actually benefit from chemotherapy, some people could decide to undergo chemotherapy based on the results of the test without realizing any benefit. The story didn’t explicitly state that potential harm and we think it should have.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story doesn’t really give any details on the current study or the overall strength of the evidence to support the use of the test. Although the story points out that the results will be presented at a meeting, it should have made the point that these studies are not rigorously peer-reviewed and evaluated prior to presentation, which makes it more difficult to evaluate the study at this time.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not exagerrate the seriousness or prevalence of colon cancer. The story is also clear to describe the target of the test – colon cancers that are large but have not spread beyond the colon.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Clearly not having the test is the alternative. The story did not need to spell that out, but it could have described what is currently done to determine need for chemotherapy, i.e. pathology and/or imaging tests.

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

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that the test is not yet available but that it may be in the near future.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story adequately describes the novelty of the test.

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

Satisfactory

Because the story quotes multiple experts, it is reasonable to assume that the story does not rely on a press release as the sole source of information.  But it does also appear clear that the news release from the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting is driving the story. Otherwise why not wait until the actual presentation of results – or publication of a peer-reviewed paper?

Total Score: 7 of 10 Satisfactory

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