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Exelixis drug slows prostate cancer spread in trial


2 Star


Exelixis drug slows prostate cancer spread in trial

Our Review Summary

The story provides the reader with a confused and often contradictory profile of interim findings of a study reported in abstract at a big scientific conference.


Why This Matters

The American Society of Clinical Oncology conference fosters a lot of rush-to-publication among journalists.  This story was an example of what an empty exercise that can sometimes be.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of projected costs – not even a statement that the company has not yet projected costs.  We look for cost information in every single story.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story presents the reader with a set of apparently contradictory information on the benefits of the drug.

  • “108 patients so far evaluated by bone scan, 21 had complete resolution, and 61 had partial shrinkage of metastatic bone lesions, which can lead to bone fractures, severe pain and eventual death; After 12 weeks of treatment, 31 patients were randomly selected to receive either a placebo or cabozantinib. The drug reduced by 87 percent the risk of disease progression or death; Excluding patients on placebo, the median survival without disease progression was 29 weeks.”

How many patients were in the study: 108 or 31? What were the results and when were they recorded? While all of the statistics are indeed correct, they are not provided in a way that a reader can get a true picture.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story said “Side effects of cabozantinib included fatigue, high blood pressure and hemorrhage” but it never explained how often these were seen.  In 1% of patients?  10%  All of them?

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

Not Satisfactory

The story states that it is reportinig on “interim results from a midstage trial” but it never says anything about the limitations of such a preliminary report. In doing so, it present a confused and sometimes contradictory set of information that provides the reader with little in the way of a take home message.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering of late-stage prostate cancer.

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

Not Satisfactory

No physician or researcher was interviewed – only the drug company CEO.  Not good form in reporting on health news.  With thousands of cancer specialists in Chicago for the ASCO conference, was none available?

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

No comparison with other treatment approaches.

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


The story says the drug is “experimental.”  We wish it had provided more details than that.  But we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

We’re not told much about the relative novelty of the drug – only that it’s being studied in ovarian and thyroid cancer as well.

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

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure of the extent to which the story relied on a news release.  We do know it quoted only the company CEO.

Total Score: 2 of 9 Satisfactory


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