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Read Original Story

Partnership plans to build cancer treatment machine

Rating

3 Star

Partnership plans to build cancer treatment machine

Our Review Summary

This story reads like a promotional vehicle for a new, potentially cost-prohibitive machine manufactured by TomoTherapy. Information in this story does not go beyont that found in a press release by TomoTherapy, Inc. (maker of the device) and there is little, if any, new enterprise reporting in the piece.

The story cites Dr. DeVere White and Dr. Matthews of UC Davis Cancer. Researchers at the Center helped finance and develop the proton therapy machines with TomoTherapy, Inc., so they have an interest in positively promoting their work.  The story also cites a senior project manager at TomoTherapy, Inc., who also cannot provide unbiased information about this new device.  The story needs balance, possibly from  interviews with cancer researchers (radiologists) and clinicians who could provide perspective on this emerging technology as cancer treatment.

The story presents proton therapy as a newer, alternative option for shrinking tumors; however, this technology as cancer therapy is still in early development, though it has received FDA approval. The story gives us no data to support this newer option as better than existing methods of X-ray radiation treatment for cancer. The story does not mention that current forms of X-ray radiation can be targetted to a tumor via computer imaging and the use of devices (i.e. balloon, seeds, etc.)  This sometimes reduces harm to healthy tissue. Despite company reassurances, we do not know if this form of therapy is as efficacious as current radiation or if it is safe. We are also not told if this therapy is only for a particular type of cancer or if it could be used on tumors anywhere in the body.

Lastly, the story lists the cost of the machine but does not mention how this would influence treatment costs for the patient. We are not told if this method of cancer treatment would be covered by health insurance, or how the cost would compare to current radiation treatments.

In short, the story needed more on costs, context, and evidence in comparison with existing alternatives.   Independent perspectives were sorely needed.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story provides the cost of the machine but does not mention how this would influence the treatment costs for the patient. We are not told if this method of cancer treatment would be covered by health insurance, or how the cost would compare to current radiation treatments.

 

 

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not provide any quantification of benefit.  The story is a promotional vehicle for a new, potentially cost-prohibitive machine manufactured by TomoTherapy. We are told that proton therapy  will work better for patients than radiation, but no data are given to show that this is the case.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story notes potential harms of radiation, but mentions no harms of proton therapy. 

Proton therapy is not without side effects; this story inappropriately minimizes potential harm of proton beam.  Clearly, future clinical studies will help define better the harms, but the story should have noted potential for harms.  Common harms include hair loss, skin rash, fatigue – story says "patient won’t have undue side effects" whatever ‘undue side effects’ may mean – the harms are not inconsequential for sure.  Here’s what another proton center lists: 

What are some of the side effects from proton therapy?
Side effects will depend on the patient’s age, medical history, diagnosis, disease size and location. Some patients may receive chemotherapy in conjunction with proton therapy; some will receive much lower radiation doses than others and therefore symptoms will vary significantly. Common symptoms include temporary hair loss and skin reactions in the direct path of the radiation. Fatigue is also associated treatment to large areas.


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

Not Satisfactory

The story provides no quantitative evidence that the proton therapy is better than current radiation. Despite company reassurances, we do not know if this form of therapy is as efficacious as current radiation or if it is safe. We are also not told if this therapy is only for a particular type of cancer or if it could be used on tumors anywhere in the body.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not engage in disease mongering, but promotes a new technology and potential future option for cancer treatment.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story cites Dr. DeVere White and Dr. Matthew of UC Davis Cancer. Researchers at this center helped finance research and development of the proton therapy machines with TomoTherapy, Inc., so they have an interest in positively promoting their work.  The story also cites a senior project manager at TomoTherapy, Inc., who also cannot provide unbiased information about this new device.  The story needs balance from cancer researchers (esp. radiation oncologists) and clinicians to provide perspective on this emerging technology as cancer treatment.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story presents proton therapy as a newer, alternative option for shrinking tumors; however, this technology as cancer therapy is still in early development, thought it has received FDA approval for cancer treatment. The story gives us no data to support this newer option as better than existing methods of X-ray radiation treatment for cancer.  There have been advances in standard radiation therapy with the goal of minimizing harm to healthy tissue, and the story does not mention that current forms of X-ray radiation can be targeted to a tumor via computer imaging and the use of devices (i.e. balloon, seeds, etc.)  

 

Mary, unsure here if we need to mention the latter, but thought it was important as they position this as proton therapy v. harmful radiation. Radiation, at least as much as I know for breast cancer, is now safer.  

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

Satisfactory

The story mentions that the proton therapy machines are only in five cancer centers in the U.S..  Space and cost are provided as the reason this therapy is not widely available, but cancer centers may be waiting for evidence that this therapy is safe and works as well (or better) than current forms of targeted radiation delivery. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story presents a new technology–proton therapy–as an option for shrinking tumors; however, the story gives us no data to support this newer option as better than existing methods of X-ray radiation treatment for cancer.

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

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure if the story relied soley or largely on  a press release, but there is very little new information in the story that is NOT in a news release posted by TomoTherapy, Inc., makers of the proton therapy machine promoted in the news story. 

Total Score: 4 of 9 Satisfactory

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