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Stem cells may help heart disease

Rating

3 Star

Stem cells may help heart disease

Our Review Summary

This story was about an experimental approach using adult stem cells to limit heart damage after a heart attack. 

The story explained that the evidence came from a small phase I clinical trial, the results of which were presented at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting. It should have mentioned some of the problems with trying to reach conclusions about research that has not yet been peer reviewed, with results that have not been replicated. (See primer on "News From Scientific Meetings.")

The story included quotes that described the results of the study (which was sponsored by the company that developed the approach) as 'really quite spectacular', 'more encouraging than anything we've seen', and that those involved in the study were 'blown away' when they saw the outcome.  But all of the sources interviewed were connected to the trial in some way, and had a vested interest in reporting positive findings.  Again, especially since the work has not been peer-reviewed, it would have been helpful to have included comments from independent experts. 

The story didn't discuss costs of the approach.   It also didn't mention any harms observed or even comment about an absence of observed harms if this was the case.

 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no estimate for the cost of this experimental approach. 

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

Satisfactory

The story included evidence that fewer patients receiving the treatment had arrhythmias in the months after their heart attack than those who received the placebo. 

The story mentioned that those receiving the treatment were able to walk farther and had better heart muscle than the placebo group, though it did not provide any estimates of the magnitude for these differences

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

Not Satisfactory

The story included no mention of any harms observed or even a comment about an absence of observed harms if this was the case.

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

Satisfactory

The story explained that the evidence came from a small phase I clinical trial, the results of which were presented at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting. It should have mentioned some of the problems with trying to reach conclusions about research that has not yet been peer reviewed, with results that have not been replicated.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

This story did not engage in disease mongering.

 

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

Satisfactory

The story included comments from four different stem cell researchers, but all were connected with the research in some way.  It would have been better to get an independent perspective from someone not involved in this research.  In addition, there were no caveats given about results that have only been presented at a meeting, have not yet been peer reviewed, and have not been replicated.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

While presenting information about decreased numbers of patients experiencing arrhythmias and better capacity to walk as a result of the experimental approach, the story did not discuss how this new experimental approach compares with existing treatment options.

 

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

Not Satisfactory

Although the story called the stem cell approach "an experimental treatment" and mentioned that the information presented came from a phase I clinical trial conducted with a small group of patients, it did not explain that this treatment is not widely available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

This is a novel treatment and was presented as such.

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

Satisfactory

Does not appear to rely exclusively on a press release.

Total Score: 6 of 10 Satisfactory

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