Yes, it could lead to a breakthrough, but, after tests on just a few tumor samples (something not disclosed in the article), it could also lead to something far less than a breakthrough.
The story fell victim to over-enthusiastic language ("…this is the first time the process, known as RNA interference (RNAi), has been shown to work in humans"). To the average reader this would suggest that there was a treatment effect and that is a far cry from what actually was seen.
At least the story ended with appropriate caution from one expert: "This is the first qualitative ‘yes we can do it’ publication and it really has to be kept in that perspective." (emphasis added)
No costs were discussed, which is understandable at this early stage of research. Not applicable.
Didn’t give readers any sense of how many samples were tested and what the results were. The Reuters story at least explained that the researchers reported on results in three tissue samples.
The story paraphrased the researchers. "The precision of the process is crucial to limiting side effects." But it never discussed what even the potential side effects of this approach might be. It would have been relatively easy for the story to have included a few words about the potential downsides, including "off target" side effects during an exaggerated immune response or the shuttinf off of non-targeted genes resulting in adverse outcomes.
The story stated that this was an "early phase clinical trial" but didn’t explain how early – that tissue samples of only three patients were tested. In addition, the results have not been subject to peer review, something the story didn’t mention. The story also crossed a line when it stated, "The experiment proceeded just as planned, as biopsies later showed." This would suggest that the study was in fact completed and the results were completely as expected. However, a more careful review of the letter does not support that view.
Not applicable because no diseases were discussed in any detail.
Two independent sources were quoted.
There was no discussion of other targeted therapy research – something the Reuters story at least briefly described.
Unlike the Reuters story, this story was very clear with this statement: "Obviously the process will have to be refined and optimized before it’s actually used for treatment."
Good job on establishing the novelty of this approach – and reminding readers that this work lead to a Nobel Prize in 2006 for research in worms – "a far cry from humans," as the story states.
It’s clear the story didn’t rely solely on a news release.