The story overflowed with overstatement.
This is important research that requires no hyperbole. Let the facts and the science speak. No sensationalism is necessary.
It is possible to report on single case studies better than this – by providing caveats and context, not projections beyond what the scope of the work in question.
Imagine the impact on the lives of people with melanoma who see a network TV story or this online version that this single case study could result in “saving or prolonging thousands of lives.”
No mention of costs. Ipilimumab has been estimated to cost $120,000 for a course of therapy. It takes 3 second to include that on the air – a dozen more words in an online story.
It’s not so much the fact that limited network TV news time was devoted to a single case study (do we need to roll out the past single case studies reported on network TV that didn’t pan out?), but the suggestion in the opening line – that this finding “could indicate a significant change of the course of cancer treatment — perhaps saving or prolonging thousands of lives” – is unwarranted projection at this point.
Why would a news story employ this kind of cheerleading framing – from a single case study in one person to a projection of saving/prolonging thousands of lives?
It’s not necessary and it’s misleading.
No mention of harms. There are actually two treatments at play both of which can cause significant side effects. Even a link to the manufacturer’s website would have addressed the issue for Ipilimumab. Radiation has its own set of side effects as well.
The elevation of a single case study to prime time network news and online news attention – without any discussion of the limitations of such a finding – is not sound practice.
The language of the story also conveys a cheerleading tone not supported by this one case study:
No disease mongering at play here.
The centerpiece of the story is the ipilimumab cae study. So, although an expert is quoted it was not in relation to the main story line. No independent expert was quoted on the ipilimumab case study, and it was badly needed.
We’ll give the story the benefit of the doubt because it accurately stated “there are few treatments for advanced melanoma.”
The story stated that ipilimumab was approved in 2011 for advanced melanoma treatment.
The relative novelty of this finding was the whole focus of the story, although perhaps overstating its significance at this early stage.
It does not appear that the story relied on a news release.