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Breast cancer drug may slow lung cancer’s march

Rating

2 Star

Breast cancer drug may slow lung cancer’s march

Our Review Summary

This article briefly (353 words) examines  a retrospective analysis of 6,655 Swiss breast cancer patients followed between 1980 and 2003 .  The study looks at the hypothesis that there might be a link between estrogen and lung cancer.   Patients  taking tamoxifen had a lower rate of lung cancer deaths, but statistically insignificant reduction in the development of lung cancer.  The actual number of study patients with both breast and lung cancer was small, and the article contained  little or no discussion of possible confounding factors, side effects, or costs.  There were no independent sources quoted.

 

Why This Matters

This article offers more promise than evidence or context . Both small-cell lung cancer and breast cancer are devastating diseases. The article would be improved with more well-presented, high quality evidence and the framework to make sense  of it.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Although generic tamoxifen is a relatively inexpensive medication, there was neither discussion of the medication cost in the article nor discussion of the cost of tests involved in evaluating such a treatment.

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

Not Satisfactory

As this is an observational study, much of the problem with understanding benefits/harms of tamoxifen in this article involves an incomplete description of what is known and not known.  In particular, there was not discussion of the significance of the small number of women who developed lung cancer, the statistical comparison used was based on general assumptions and not further addressed in the story, and possible confounding factors were not addressed either.

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

Not Satisfactory

There is a brief reference to side effects from tamoxifen  As some effects are dangerous,  clearer information on the potential harms would be critical in the decision-making process between patient and physician.

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

Not Satisfactory

On the one hand, the writer carefully differentiated between those who develop lung cancer and those who die from lung cancer. On the other hand, there was no caution in the article regarding the preliminary, limited nature of this evidence for breast and lung cancer patients, and the need for a fully developed trial rather than relying on retrospective data alone.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

There is no disease-mongering in this story.

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

Not Satisfactory

Although the original journal was mentioned, there was no independent expert source quoted.  The likelihood of conflict of interest is not addressed.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Current treatment of non-small cell lung cancer was not discussed.

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

Satisfactory

The article adequately establishes that although Tamoxifen is available by prescription, largely for treatment  of breast cancer, it is not currently prescribed for lung cancer.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The article makes clear the fact that tamoxifen is not a new medication, but rather, that the association with lung cancer survival is relatively new. .References to newer estrogen blockers were vague.

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

Not Applicable

Not applicable because we’re can’t be sure whether the story relied on a news release. No one was quoted.

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory

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