It is useful to remember that the primary business of newspapers is to sell newspapers--or, in this digital age, to increase traffic at their websites. Therefore, headlines are important, and headlines about cancer breakthroughs or, dare we say it (they apparently do) cures are popular. On the eve of the ASCO (American Association of Clinical Oncology) annual meeting, this is especially relevant. Tens of thousands of doctors and scientists and pharma people and journalists and everyone else who is associated with Cancer World will be in Chicago to hear about new research and studies and policy issues.
Here is the most important reminder: do not believe everything that you read. And, if something sounds too good to be true, it likely isn't. That is not to say that there won't be hopeful and potentially exciting talks, and occasionally there is a real home run--think herceptin for her2 positive breast cancer and Gleevac for chronic leukemias. Most of the time, there is slow and mostly steady progress, and glimpses of the future.
This is an article from the Kansas City Star about media hype and medicine in general. I give you the start and a link along with another reminder to read critically and carefully.
Heralded medical treatments often fail to live up to their promise
By ALAN BAVLEY and SCOTT CANON
For the millions of people who couldn’t get their high blood pressure under control even with handfuls of pills, a simple procedure was going to be the breakthrough.
Burn away hypersensitive nerves in the kidneys. Watch blood pressure readings go down.
The American Heart Association hinted that the procedure, renal denervation, might become a drug-free cure, even for mild cases of high blood pressure. Media reports, including one in The Kansas City Star, highlighted great results of preliminary research. Patients eager to get off their meds started calling hospitals.
“The potential benefit was huge,” said Kamal Gupta, a cardiologist at University of Kansas Hospital.
If only it had worked.