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HealthDay cautiously reports results of Opdivo melanoma study


4 Star


Immune-Focused Drug May Be New Weapon Against Advanced Melanoma

Our Review Summary

The story focuses on a recent study that found the drug nivolumab (sold under the trade name Opdivo) is superior to the drug ipilimumab (sold as Yervoy) in preventing recurrence of Stage 3 and Stage 4 melanoma after surgery, at least when it comes to recurrence-free survival. The story does a good job addressing side effects and highlighting who funded the research. The story would have been stronger if it had mentioned the steep costs of these drugs.


Why This Matters

Study results related to new drugs are often overhyped, raising hopes in cancer patients without giving patients (and their loved ones) the information they need to place the new research findings in context. This story uses fairly cautious language and addresses the research and its findings in detail.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Cost is not addressed. That’s a significant oversight given that treatment with Opdivo can reach well into the tens of thousands of dollars–or more.

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


The story clearly defines the benefit (survival without recurrence of the cancer) and offers clear numbers: “After a year of treatment, 71 percent of patients in the Opdivo group were alive without any recurrence of the disease, compared with 61 percent of those treated with Yervoy. And at 18 months, the rate was 66 percent for Opdivo and 53 percent for Yervoy, the findings showed.”

One detail we think would have been good to add–“recurrence-free survival” doesn’t tell you how many patients are actually living longer specifically because of the treatment. It’s just telling you how much time elapses before recurrence.

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


The story notes that the most common side effects were fatigue and diarrhea. But the story also offers information about how common any adverse side effects were — for both Opdivo and Yervoy. That’s valuable information. What’s more, the story notes that Opdivo was less likely to cause adverse side effects than Yervoy, and that those side effects were less severe. Again, that’s useful context.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story states how many patients were in the study and that it was conducted across 130 medical centers in 25 countries. The story does not note that the study was a randomized, double-blind, phase-3 trial — which would have made the story stronger.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering here.

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


The story tells readers in the second paragraph that the study was funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb, which markets Opdivo. We like that the story places that information front and center. In addition, the story incorporates input from two independent sources.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story clearly compares the use of Opdivo to the use of Yervoy, and cites an independent source as noting that Opdivo “is superior to conventional chemotherapy for advanced metastatic disease.”

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


The story explains: “Both Opdivo and Yervoy are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat advanced (metastatic) melanoma. In some patients, the drugs are used in combination.”

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story notes in its opening paragraph that this research “suggests that Opdivo — a drug that works with the immune system to fight melanoma — is more effective than the current standard of care for patients who’ve had surgery to remove advanced tumors.”

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


The story goes beyond the news release associated with the research.


Total Score: 8 of 10 Satisfactory


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