“What science is worth shouting about?” asks Martin Fenner on his Gobbledygook blog on Nature Network. Fenner, a clinical fellow in oncology at Hannover Medical School in Germany, puts cancer research newsworthiness under the magnifying glass (http://tinyurl.com/a4fqvz).
He breaks down the stakeholders for cancer research news into five categories — basic researchers, drug companies, insurance companies, the media and patients — and discusses the motives each has when producing or reading results. For example, Fenner notes, the drug erlotinib won approval from regulatory agencies because it prolonged survival in patients with pancreatic cancer. But insurance companies might balk at the cost: in trials the median survival increase was less than two weeks, meaning the drug costs about US$410,000 per year of life saved.
Fenner concludes that the media needs to better distinguish between basic, early clinical and translational findings; scientists should take care when reporting cancer findings outside of specialist journals; and readers should be supremely sceptical.
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From the Blogosphere. Nature 457, 356 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/7228356c