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Diabetes drug may keep lung cancer at bay


3 Star

Diabetes drug may keep lung cancer at bay

Our Review Summary

Weaker on costs, quality of the evidence, benefits, harms, and comparison to other approaches or other research.  That’s quite a few holes in comparison with the competition on this one.


Why This Matters

It’s interesting to learn that an inexpensive generic drug could have a positive effect against lung cancer.  But this story didn’t deliver sufficient detail or context for readers to be able to judge the current state of the research.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story doesn’t mention the cost of metformin, which is relatively cheap as a generic, thus adding to the potential appeal of this approach.  This should have been mentioned.

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

Not Satisfactory

Unsatisfactory because all risk reduction figures were in relative terms, not absolute.  Read our primer on this.  Why not tell us 40-50% fewer tumors THAN WHAT?  72% fewer tumors – compared TO WHAT?

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

Not Satisfactory

There was no discussion of harms.  We don’t know what harms there might be in mice on metformin, but we shouldn’t have to wonder!  After all, we weren’t the ones writing about "strong" benefits of metformin in mice!

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

Not Satisfactory

The story was really weak on this, only mentioning how "strong" the findings were.  Meantime, in comparison, the HealthDay story advanced into a discussion of possible mechanisms of action, the fact that the mice studied had been genetically engineered to be susceptible to lung tumors, and the fact that a second study was reported in a very small number of humans. 

Big picture:  this story didn’t put "mouse research" in the headline or in the first sentence and then failed to discuss human research that DID exist in this specific area.  By comparison the HealthDay story ended with the quote, "what’s proven in humans is totally another level."

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No overt disease mongering of disease and death from use of tobacco products.

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


A hesitant satisfactory on this one only because it quoted a comment from an expert "who wrote a review on metformin research in the same journal." There was no evidence of any interview having been conducted, though.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

No meaningful comparison with other lung cancer prevention approaches and not even with parallel human research in this field – as the HealthDay story did in at least mentioning a small human study of metformin in colorectal cancer patients.

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


The story says metformin "is already widely used in people."

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story did mention some other past research on metformin and cancer risk.

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

Not Applicable

Not applicable because we can’t be sure of the extent to which the story may have been influenced by a news release.  There’s no evidence of any independent interviewing, since quotes seem to come from published statements or from journal review comments.

Total Score: 4 of 9 Satisfactory


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