This news story reports on results from a recent randomized trial, which found that specially formulated ginger capsules administered to cancer patients before and after chemotherapy treatments significantly reduced nausea. While this story meets many of our criteria, it would have been beneficial for the readers to know that this research has not yet been published and has yet to undergo a formal review process to ensure sound methodology and accurate calculations. The story also fails to mention that 90% of the patients were women, which raises the question of whether the same results would be seen in men.
In light of the fact that only an abstract has been released, the story adequately describes the research methodology and provides quotes from members of the American Cancer Society and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. However, it would have useful if these sources provided more commentary on the study and its findings. Even though no adverse events were reported in the study participants, the story provides a service by pointing out the risks associated with taking dietary ginger supplements, as it can interfere with blood clotting.
This story clearly points out that dietary supplements of ginger were not used in the trial and may not provide the same benefit seen with the specially formulated capsules.
Quoting the study lead, the cost of ginger dietary supplements ranges from $6 to $30 for 50 to 100 capsules; however, as noted by the researchers, it is not apparent if dietary supplements would be as effective as the formulation developed specifically for the study.
The study lead is quoted as saying the use of ginger resulted in a 40% improvement in patients’ nausea. In the placebo group, the study lead indicated that "hardly any difference" was noted. But we’re not given any context on important questions such as how much change in the nausea scale is actually clinical perceptible to patients. This is what’s really needed to understand any potential benefit.
While there were no reported adverse effects associated with the use of ginger in this study, the story points out that ginger supplements can interfere with blood clotting, which can be particularly harmful to cancer patients undergoing treatment or surgery. The story suggests that people should talk with their doctors before using it.
The story does not make it fully apparent that this research has not yet been published in a medical journal and only the abstract has been released. Unlike published articles, this study has not gone through a review process to check for errors in the methodology.
While the story points out that 2/3 of the study participants were being treated for breast cancer, it would also be important to clearly state that the majority (90%) were women, which suggests that the results may not be applicable to the general population. Furthermore, it is not clear from the story or the abstract if patients received different types of chemotherapy or why the researchers included patients with various types of cancer.
The story does not appear to exaggerate the prevalence of nausea as a side effect of chemotherapy treatment.
In addition to interviewing the research lead, this story also includes quotes from a director at the American Cancer Society, as well as the president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology; however, the president of the oncology society did not comment directly on the research.
The story mentions that the study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and researches did not have any ties with the capsule maker who supplied the ginger formulation for this study.
The story briefly mentioned anti-emetics, which reduce vomiting, but more detail could have been supplied regarding the efficacy of other medications for chemotherapy-related nausea.
Ginger capsules sold as dietary supplements and products containing ginger flavoring, such as ginger teas or ginger spice, are widely available; however, the story notes that they may not provide the same benefits as the formulation used in the study. According to the story, the company that developed the capsule used in this study is seeking approval from the FDA to market the ginger formulation as an anti-nausea drug.
Up front, the story points out that ginger has long been used to quell nausea; however, it also mentions that this is the first large-scale study evaluating its efficacy in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Other studies, as this story indicates, have had conflicting results.
This story does not appear to rely on a press release.