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 -
Read Original Story

Cervical cancer vaccine in early stages


4 Star


Cervical cancer vaccine in early stages

Our Review Summary

In either case, we question the newsworthiness of a Phase I study in 18 women. At least the Philadelphia story had the local angle.  Are we going to start reporting on all Phase i lab results with samples sizes this small?


Why This Matters

We usually think of vaccines to prevent diseases, not treat them. That’s the premise behind existing cervical cancer vaccines, which prevent infection with HPV strains known to cause cancer. It’s interesting to hear that a vaccine that might treat established HPV infection is under study. But the reader needs to understand that there are many steps between a preliminary laboratory result and a clinically useful vaccine.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Not applicable; too early in development process to discuss costs.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story didn’t quantify the benefits of the vaccine in the first clinical trial.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story states “The researchers did not observe any side effects.”  But the Philadelphia Inquirer reported: “Most side effects of the vaccine were minimal and deemed unrelated to the treatment, the paper reported.”

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


The story pointed out the study for which the paper was based was not a randomized clinical trial and the small sample size made it hard to draw any definite conclusions.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story did not appear to commit disease mongering.

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


The story did provide a quote from an independent researcher who was not involved with the current research (and does not appear to be affiliated with the vaccine manufacturer).

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


There was some discussion of alternative approaches –  Gardasil and Cervarix.

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


They did briefly discuss future clinical trials and did not try to estimate when a vaccine would be available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story was clear that the novel part is development of a vaccine using DNA only.

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


The story does not appear to rely on a press release.

Total Score: 7 of 10 Satisfactory


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