Improved quality of life, with no reduction in survival. This story hits the high points of an important study looking at overall survival in some breast cancer patients who face lymph node dissection of multiple nodes with its not infrequent life-long complications.
Areas for improvement:
Until now, if a patient has a positive node on a sentinel node biospy they then have additional lymph node surgery. Based on this study, which suggests there is no overall or disease-free survival benefit to ALND for the patients named above, there would be no reason for them to go through the additional suffering that often accompanies the procedure.
The article didn’t discuss any differences in the financial cost of the two approaches. Nor did it discuss whether insurers are likely to curtail coverage based on the new findings.
The story presented a brief quantification of the overall survival rate but would have been improved by using numbers of breast cancer patients who might be affected.
The story presented a clear statement regarding the lack of long-term evidence. However, it did not clearly quantify the potential harms of sentinel node biopsy and axillary lymph node dissection and compare them. How often do complications occur?
The story was specific about study population and the current and possible future effects on clinical practice. However, it didn’t address the fact that recruitment was stopped early because it would have taken 20 years to get the 500 deaths required to fully power the analyses, given that overall survival was so much higher than expected. The researchers were quite clear in their published manuscript about the possible limitations in their study.
There was no evidence of disease-mongering in this story.
The story identifies its journal source, and includes interviews with several independent clinical sources, as well as a statement from the Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society. It did explain the NCI funding for the trial.
The article briefly mentions standard-of-care treatment and how that might be affected by this study.
The article appropriately defines to whom these findings would apply and briefly indicates not all physicians would be likely to adopt the findings immediately.
The article uses helpful quotes from breast cancer experts to establish the significant effect of this new information on clinical practice.
The story does not rely solely on a news release.