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Two new drugs extend survival for melanoma patients


4 Star



Two new drugs extend survival for melanoma patients

Our Review Summary

More broadly, the story contained none of the restrained context provided by the Times.   Read and compare.


Why This Matters

Stories about cancer – perhaps especially melanoma because of its treatment challenges – should balance promise with realistic context.  This story fell short in comparison with the competing New York Times story.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Not a word about costs – difficult to comprehend given the estimates the New York Times provided of $120,000 per course of treatment for one and “at least tens of thousands” per year for another.

Is this not an issue worthy of a line?

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


Adequate explanation of the benefits reported in both studies.

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

Not Satisfactory

Not a single word about potential harms, as opposed to a New York Times story, which described – variously for the two drugs:

  • “extreme pain”
  • 38% of participants had to stop taking the drug or lower the dose because of side effects
  • “serious side effects…a big one was liver damage.”

Again, is this not worthy of at least a line?

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


Adequate explanation of the evidence. Interestingly, both this story and the one from Reuters provided information from the ASCO meetings and neglected to tell readers that both studies have been published in a peer reviewed journal. The NY Times provided both sources.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease-mongering of melanoma.

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


Two independent experts were quoted.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


Adequate job reporting the comparisons seen in the trials of the two drugs.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story makes it clear that vemurafenib is experimental and Yervoy is commercially available. Unfortunately, the story includes a prediction from the ASCO President and others that , “…vemurafenib will almost certainly get FDA approval this year.” While this may occur, it is not certain. And a little shoe leather journalism would easily find someone who would remind readers that FDA approval is not a fait accompli.  Because of this, we judge this unsatisfactory.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The relative novelty of the two drugs was established.

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


It’s clear the story did not rely on a news release.

Total Score: 7 of 10 Satisfactory


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