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 -
Read Original Story

Erbitux Cancer Drug Is Cleared For Use On Head, Neck Tumors


3 Star

Erbitux Cancer Drug Is Cleared For Use On Head, Neck Tumors

Our Review Summary

In this story we learn of a potentially important new development in the treatment of head and neck cancer. The FDA recently approved the drug Erbitux for head and neck cancer after granting the application a priority review, a status only given to treatments it believes represent ‘significant improvement’ over existing treatments. The author presents accurate information on the novelty of the drug, its availability and potential side effects and does not exaggerate the prevalence or seriousness of head and neck cancer. The author also quantifies the benefit of the drug in absolute terms by giving the survival for both arms of the study. However, the story contains phrases that appear identical to some in the FDA’s news release and apppears to rely on this release as the only source of information. No other sources are quoted. In doing so, the story misses some information that was not present in the press release. Most notably, it is still uncertain how Erbitux will compare with cisplatin, the current standard of care for chemotherapy, since the trials did not directly compare them. The author also does not mention the costs of Erbitux, which are likely to be substantial compared to the much cheaper cisplatin.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The author does not mention the costs of the drug, which are likely to be substantial compared to the much cheaper cisplatin.

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


Quantitative estimates of survival are given for both the drug and the radiation-only groups.

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


The side effects of Erbitux are accurately presented.

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

Not Satisfactory

Although there is mention of two studies, the story not describe the study design. Nor does the story explain that the studies did not directly compare Erbitux to the current standard of care for chemotherapy – cisplatin. The fact that there has been no direct comparison between Erbitux and cisplatin makes it more difficult to interpret what the results mean for current practice.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


There is no obvious disease-mongering. The story accurate represents the prevalence and seriousness of head and neck cancer.

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

Not Satisfactory

Only a single source – the FDA – is quoted.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Although the author does mention radiation as the alternative and that the side effects of Erbitux plus radiation are similar to that of radiation alone, there is no mention of cisplatin and other newer chemotherapy drugs that are the current standard of care.

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


The story accurately states that Erbitux has recently been approved by the FDA

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story is clear that Erbitux was first used to treat colon cancer, but is now approved to treat head and neck cancer.

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

Not Satisfactory

Identical phrases appear in the story and in the FDA’s news release. The lack of independent sources also suggests that the author has relied on the press release as the only information source.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory


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