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A Dagger Against Cancer

Rating

3 Star

A Dagger Against Cancer

Our Review Summary

This is an article about a relatively new (i.e. about 40 hospitals in the U.S. have them) medical device – the Cyberknife – that is touted as increasing the accuracy of radiologic cancer treatment. This piece would have been greatly improved by including some information that would allow readers to evaluate the treatment claims made in the patient anecdotes. An important flaw in the article is that it did not contain any mention of clinical evidence whatsoever about the use of the Cyberknife.

The article does serve as a starting point for learning about a potential cancer treatment option for particular situations that are less amenable to more conventional treatments, It would have been a more useful story if it had included some of the difficulties or side effects associated with this treatment in addition to the potential it may hold.

There was no mention of the costs associated with the use of this device. While the reader is told that the device is a “hulking $4.6 million machine,” this doesn’t help with perspective in terms of how it compares in cost with other imaging devices. Most importantly, the reader is left with no information about patient bills from treatment with the Cyberknife or how they might compare to other treatments.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no mention of the costs associated with the use of this device. While the reader is told that the device is a “hulking $4.6 million machine,” this doesn’t help with perspective in terms of how it compares in terms of the cost of other imaging devices. Most importantly, the reader is left with no information about patient bills from treatment with the Cyberknife or how they might compare to other treatments.

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

Not Satisfactory

The case reports in the article provide a glimpse of some of the different uses for this medical device, including reducing bone pain from bone metastasis, “cleaning up residual cancer left after surgery,” stopping tumor cell growth, and cleaning away the margins of a tumor in a sensitive location. However, while doing a good job of explaining the different ways this device can be used, the article failed to provide any information to assess how successful it is in accomplishing each of these tasks.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story didn’t mention any harms or complications associated with the use of the Cyberknife.

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

Not Satisfactory

This piece did not include mention of specific studies demonstrating the efficacy of the Cyberknife. The presentation of several positive case studies misses the opportunity to help readers understand how they ought to evaluate such case reports.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

This piece did not seem to disease monger about cancer, risks of cancer treatments, or make exaggerated claims for the Cyberknife device. It is presented as perhaps a more accurate tool in situations where conventional treatment may not applicable.

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

Not Satisfactory

There are quotes from two physicians who use this medical device to treat patients at one hospital, and there are quotes from several patients who have been treated with a Cyberknife. There was no independent perspective from a clinician who uses this and other treatments to treat similar cases.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

This devices is reported as an adjunct to current surgery and conventional radiation treatment, mentioning that for now, it will not replace these.

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

Satisfactory

The article discusses that this treatment is not available everywhere. One patient example in the story initially had to travel from Hartford to Boston in order to access treatment. A quote in the article includes mention that there are about 40 of these devices currently operating in U.S. hospitals.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The Cyberknife is a relatively recent system that allows for more better positioning of the patient and focusing of the radiation used for radiosurgical and radiotherapy treatment of cancer. The article mentions that currently about 40 hospitals in the U.S. have this medical device.

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

Not Applicable

We can’t judge if the story relied solely or largely on a news release. However we do know that the story only quoted two doctors who work with the Cyberknife at one local hospital.

Total Score: 4 of 9 Satisfactory

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