May 11, 2017
Jen Marie Robustelli

How Hype Can Mislead Cancer Patients | Oncology Download May 9, 2017

How hype can mislead cancer patients, families | This is the direction direct-to-consumer genetic testing needs to take | Genetic testing not living up to its promise in cancer treatment

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Every Tuesday morning, we send the Oncology Download out to thousands of oncology professionals. The newsletter is designed to be skimmable for the busy professional—our team curates 3-5 top stories from policy, research, industry, and mainstream media sources, and summarize these stories with takeaways geared toward cancer professionals dedicated to using data and technology to improve the lives of cancer patients. 

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How hype can mislead cancer patients, families

Are early scientific results for cancer developments overhyped, or do they provide much-needed hope?

Several articles over the last two weeks have come across my desk with the same theme—hype versus hope when it comes to innovations in cancer treatments. It seems the source of many of these conversations is Liz Szabo at Kaiser Health News, who contributed the headline article in CNN (linked above), organized a #cancerhype chat that appeared in 14.3 million twitter feeds, and bylined several additional articles on cancer treatment in Kaiser Health News(Bonus reading for those interested—this research published in JAMA, The Use of Superlatives in Cancer Research.)

It's an interesting discussion thread for those dedicated to innovation in oncology. While there's an obvious patient advocacy focus in some of the articles, there's also an important reminder to those of us who celebrate innovation in oncology: Technology and data can be crucial allies in combating hype and promoting hope to cancer patients and providers. Like any good discussion, there are many good angles here. I'm eager to hear your perspective—just reply to this email with your response.

This is the direction direct-to-consumer genetic testing needs to take

"It will be incumbent on test manufacturers to provide access to genetic counselors so the results can be placed into proper context."

On the heels of the FDA approval of 23andMe direct-to-consumer genetic tests, oncologist (and Chief Medical Officer at Cota) Dr. Stuart Goldberg writes in MedCityNews about the importance of offering counsel so patients can properly understand results from these genetic tests. While the push for more testing and data is lauded, lacking the proper context for the results (and the danger of relying on "Dr. Google") can cause unnecessary angst for patients if they are not offered a channel for counseling—especially as testing inevitably moves towards more critical diseases like BRCA breast cancer genes and hereditary colon cancer.

Genetic testing not living up to its promise in cancer treatment

Most oncologists consider genomic testing to be a potential major advance in oncology, but they also believe it is significantly overpromoted to date.

More discussion on the potential hype versus hope from a clinical perspective, based on a recent Medscape report, "Genomic Testing and Precision Medicine in Cancer Care." Some tidbits:

  • Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said genomic testing would benefit treatment in fewer than 25% of their oncology cases
  • Yet 64% feel the testing is useful, and the majority will order them when traditional care isn't working
  • 89% said genomic testing will be a standard component for treatment in the next 10 years 

Why it matters—if studies show genomic testing can inform treatments and improve outcomes, it has broad implications for value-based care and precision medicine initiatives.

Next Article:
35 Years of American Death Data | Oncology Download May 2, 2017
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