Cancer, Cure, Gina and Kolata
I’m sure other trackers will be analyzing the coverage of this story in depth, but I had to chime in on the hype that propelled a breast cancer basic research story onto the front page of the New York Times, and, sadly, The Philadelphia Inquirer. None of our highly knowledgeable medical reporters were asked to advise the weekend editors on the decision to give the story above-the-fold placement.
The story, headlined “Study Divides Breast Cancer Into Four Distinct Types” was based on a paper in Nature. The paper summarized some research that may well have been important. But does it justify the big front-page headlines? The sub-head with the seductive world “cure”? Our medical reporters have advised me that much of what was presented in the story wasn’t all that new.
(For those new to the world of medical reporting, Kolata was responsible for another unfortunate incident back in the late 1990s, which involved James Watson, angiogenesis drugs, and a claim that science would cure cancer by 2000.)