NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine - https://archive.org/web/.
Read Original Story

Cancer drugs: Too toxic?

Rating

5 Star

Cancer drugs: Too toxic?

Our Review Summary

The focus of the story is on the potential downsides to a newer hormonal treatments used to prevent breast cancer recurrence. The story appropriately notes that the full array and severity of side effects are typically not known until medications have been on the market for some time. The story focuses on the pros and cons of taking the hormonal therapy and compares two options. The story does an excellent job mentioning that aromatase inhibitors are "expensive medications" themselves, but that additional medications used to treat side effects may further increase the expense of this therapy.

The story notes the quality of life trade-offs many women face if they choose hormonal therapy for 5 years.   The story provides new data on the incidence and severity of side effects of both treatment options, and how this might affect women's adherence to long-term hormonal medication regimens. Some of these data are from peer-reviewed medical journals, while others were presented at a recent breast cancer symposium and have yet to be peer reviewed. The story notes the importance of this research, as it provides a clearer picture of side effects beyond those reported in early clinical trials. 

This is a well-researched, balanced story. However, there is no discussion of why aromatase inhibitors are now the standard of care, or that they are only for post-menopausal women. The story notes that hormonal treatments for 5 years typically reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence by about 40%.  In clinical trials, it is closer to 50% for tamoxifen, and 60% for aromatase inhibitors. This is why aromatase inhibitors are currently being offered to estrogen-receptor positive, post-menopausal women as a primary choice for hormonal treatment following surgery.

The story cites breast cancer researchers and study authors, as well as a representative from a patient advocacy group, providing additional perspective to this well-balanced story on drug treatments.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story does an excellent job noting that aromatase inhibitors are "expensive medications" themselves, but also the story mentions that additional medications used to treat side effects may further increase the expense of this therapy. The cost of medication(s) would be for 5 years.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story notes that hormonal treatments for 5 years typically reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence by about 40%.  In clinical trials, it is closer to 50% for tamoxifen, and 60% for aromatase inhibitors. This is why aromatase inhibitors are currently being offered to estrogen-receptor positive, post-menopausal women as a  primary choice for hormonal treatment following breast cancer surgery.

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

Satisfactory

The focus of the story is on the potential downside to a newer hormonal treatment used to prevent breast cancer recurrence. The story appropriately notes that the full array and severity of side effects is typically not seen until medications have been on the market for some time. The story focuses on the pros and cons of taking the hormonal therapy and compares two options.  The story does a great job pointing out the quality of life trade-offs many women may consider if they choose hormonal therapy for 5 years.

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

Satisfactory

The story provides data on incidence of side effects and how these side effects might affect women's adherence to long-term hormonal medication regimens. Some of these data are from peer-reviewed published journals, while others were presented at a recent breast cancer symposium and have yet to be peer reviewed.  The story does note that some numbers are from non-randomized studies, explaining that these studies are important as they give a picture of side effects beyond those reported in early clinical trials.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not engage in disease mongering.  These drugs are only appropriate for women with a certain type of breast cancer.

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

Satisfactory

The story cites breast cancer researchers and study authors, as well as a representative from a patient advocacy group,  providing additional perspective to a well-balanced story.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story mentions another hormonal treatment for breast cancer, tamoxifen. The story also mentions taking no additional treatment other than surgery and radiation  (if appropriate to a woman's cancer).

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

Satisfactory

The story mentions that aromatase inhibitors are becoming the standard of care, but it does not explain why, or that they are only for post-menopausal women. The story does mention that the medications may be cost prohibitive, and thus unavailable to some women.

 

 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story mentions that aromatase inhibitors are newer medications to treat breast cancer. The story also mentions that these medications have not been available as long as tamoxifen, a long-standing hormonal breast cancer treatment.

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

Satisfactory

It does not appear that the story relied solely or largely on a news release, because there is independent reporting and research from a number of sources.

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory

Comments

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.