Monthly Archives: December 2010

Fair Is Fair: There Were Some Decent Reports Out There On The Breast Cancer Clinical Trials

My blog posted earlier today about the media coverage on the use of zoledronic acid (Zometa) as part of a treatment program to prevent breast cancer recurrence after primary treatment has garnered a bit of interest from some of my colleagues and friends.


So, in the interest of being fair, I want to emphasize that some of the reports (and there may be others; I don’t have the time right now to do a comprehensive analysis) did at least acknowledge the issue, and some gave insights to suggest that the lead investigators reporting on the two studies had some different interpretations based on their respective studies.

Here are links to a sample of reports that meet the test of at least acknowledging there is an issue about the conflicting conclusions of these two studies:,0,4128775.story


And, a fellow blogger did an exceptionally good job of detailing the information about the two trials on the Pharma Strategy Blog.


So, as I finish my day I feel a bit better than I did when I started it.  But the problem remains: who is going to take on the responsibility to see that the proper information … Continue reading →

Once Again, Much Of The Media Gets It Wrong–And For Breast Cancer Patients, That Could Be Tragic

We spend a significant amount of time here talking about news that may not be what it seems. But even with all that experience, this one, my friends, is a real doozy. It’s about how a major cancer conference and much of the news media left me hanging about the results of study presented yesterday, and the possibility that we’ve gotten only half of the story.


The conference in question is the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, which is a highly regarded and important gathering of researchers interested in the treatment of breast cancer.  The reports in question are the results of clinical trials of an osteoporosis drug called zoledronic acid (ZOL, trade name Zometa®) which is routinely used in the treatment of osteoporosis in patients without cancer, and has been used to help patients whose cancers have spread to the bone. [more]


Previously, there was a suggestion that giving ZOL to breast cancer patients after primary treatment might reduce recurrences.  In 2008, at another major cancer conference sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, data from an Austrian trial showed ZOL clearly reduced the risk of recurrence in premenopausal patients with breast cancer when … Continue reading →

Elizabeth Edwards

The news just released that Elizabeth Edwards passed away this afternoon is sad for many, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family in their time of need.


As I have reflected on many times in this blog and in public comments, having cancer while living in public view is an especially difficult situation.  It was even more so for Ms. Edwards, as she had to contend with family issues that were the topic of intense public interest.


Through her journey, Ms. Edwards displayed courage and transparency about her illness, reminding women about the importance of getting screening mammograms and facing the news that her cancer had spread to her bones in a manner that showed the nation cancer is not something to hide or shy away from sharing. [more]


Even her announcement yesterday that she had decided further treatment would be futile generated intense public and media interest.  Some of the reports were less than sensitive, while others reflected on the reasons for her decision.  Not lost on many of us was the need for her and her family to have privacy in a difficult moment, while admiring her willingness to share with others that … Continue reading →

Will An Aspirin A Day Keep Cancer Away? Maybe–But Not Just Yet

A study released early this evening in the medical journal The Lancet is going to create another discussion about the possible role of chronic aspirin use in the prevention of cancer.   And I suspect it is also going to raise a flurry of questions from some quarters about the type of evidence we need to have in order to feel comfortable with making potentially life-saving recommendations to millions of people around the world.


For me, it makes me wonder how we are ever going to answer the questions that we have to answer about the prevention of cancer, especially when it comes to readily available, reasonably inexpensive over-the-counter medicines and vitamins such as aspirin and vitamin D.


We should never forget that the story is as much about the quality of evidence and the risk of harm as it is about the inevitable headlines that this or that something or other is going to prevent cancer. [more]


In this study, the researchers examined data from 8 previous studies that looked at aspirin as a means of reducing the chances of a vascular event, such as heart attack or stroke either as an initial preventive measure or … Continue reading →

And Now A Message About Your Weight (Just What You Want To Hear This Time Of Year)

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was a happy one, and that you are looking forward to a pleasant December.  But vigilance about your health is not taking a holiday, as two new releases yesterday–one in a medical journal and the other from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–are bound to make you think twice about that extra helping of stuffing you ate while enjoying your Thanksgiving meal.


The first report is in today’s edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, and written by a number of authors–including a colleague of mine from the American Cancer Society, Dr. Michael Thun–who examined the interminable question of whether or not being overweight as well as being obese can impact how long you will live. 


This article will give the boot to the old adage that you can never be too rich or too thin.  The scientists don’t say anything about being too rich–we will have to leave that one to the psychologists to answer–but they do suggest that in fact you can be too thin.


The other report, from the United States Department of Health and Human Services offers statistics on the rate of obesity in the United … Continue reading →