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Hot Chemotherapy Bath: Patients See Hope, Critics Hold Doubts


5 Star


Hot Chemotherapy Bath: Patients See Hope, Critics Hold Doubts

Our Review Summary

This story opens readers’ eyes to a debate that flared up before attendees of a recent meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology – but a debate that most of us wouldn’t know about.

The sidebar story, “Some Stealth Marketing by a ‘Hot Chemo’ Company,” was an important addition.


Why This Matters

This is an important piece of enterprise journalism.

The “chemo bath” approach has been around for many years, but the use of heated solutions is relatively new and has limited data to support it use. Despite the limited evidence, the approach is gaining in acceptance. Anyone who’s heard about is smarter after reading this piece.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


Good job on this, stating “The cost of the surgery and Hipec, including hospitalization, ranges from $20,000 to more than $100,000, doctors said. While Medicare and insurers generally pay for the operation, the heated treatment may not be covered. But doctors added it may be if it is described merely as chemotherapy.”

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


The story explained:

“One randomized trial done more than a decade ago involving 105 patients in the Netherlands did show a striking benefit. The median survival of those getting surgery and Hipec, plus intravenous chemotherapy, was 22.3 months, almost double the 12.6 months for those getting only the intravenous chemotherapy”

That being said, the story also included the proviso that newer drugs are now available that have been shown to increase survival.

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


The story explains that one study showed that “8 percent who got the surgery and Hipec died from the treatment itself.”  And it stated:

  •  “the procedure still lasts eight hours or more and full recovery can take three to six months. “It’s maximally invasive,” said one doctor.
  • A colon cancer specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, said that a couple of patients referred by him had “died miserable deaths. One lost much of her abdominal wall to infection and just died in misery.”
  • Another risk is that the surgery may be done unnecessarily. CT scans cannot pick up many of the small tumors, so it is often unclear how much cancer is inside until the patient is opened”

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


Includes one expert statement:  ““We’re practicing this technique that has almost no basis in science.”

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering.

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


Many different voices with different perspectives were heard in the story.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


Various comparisons were made – on both sides of the debate.

A proponent of the new method said:  ““there are no long-term survivors with systemic chemotherapy — zero.”

But the story also said: “critics say that …new drugs have come to market that allow patients with metastatic colorectal cancer to live two years with intravenous chemotherapy alone”

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


The story states that “an increasing number of the nation’s leading medical centers has been offering the costly — and controversial — therapy to patients with the more common colorectal or ovarian cancers” and names some of them.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The growing use of the approach was clear in the story. And the fact that one randomized trial was done fully a decade ago.

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


The story benefited from independent reporting.

Total Score: 10 of 10 Satisfactory


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