How Misinformation Spreads

On Jan. 28, the Jerusalem Post published an article with a quote from the chairman of the board of a pharmaceutical company: “We believe we will offer in a year’s time a complete cure for cancer.” The claim had no basis. The treatment has not been tested in humans. However, some news outlets and public figures transmitted the statement uncritically. Soon, cancer patients and patient advocates were receiving messages and questions about this supposed cure. A number of thoughtful rebuttals followed. But the damage to patients, many of whom already distrust the health care system, has already been done, writes patient advocate Dena Battle in STAT. “Inflated stories that exaggerate the beneficial effects of treatment or that hype cures deepen that sense of mistrust and shake the already fragile confidence that desperate patients have in our health care system, leading them to question even the best evidence-based science,” she says.

Including Older Patients in Research

In STAT, physician Louise Aronson writes about a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy aimed at increasing the number of older patients involved in clinical trials. Currently, cancer clinical trial participants tend to be younger than the general population of cancer patients. The new policy states that NIH-supported studies must not exclude patients based on age unless they have scientific or ethical justifications for the exclusion. Aronson calls the policy a “laudable first step” but points out that it alone will not yield the needed level of representation of older people in trials. The NIH must also “invest in developing best practices for recruiting all types of people into studies,” she writes.

Cancer Affects the Whole Household

A study published Jan. 28 in Psycho-Oncology​ finds that the financial burden related to cancer affects not just cancer patients but the other members of their household. The researchers looked at responses given from 2008 to 2016 to a survey of U.S. adults. They found that cancer patients and household members had similar reductions in mental health scores. “The dialogue around cancer care financial burden is often appropriately focused on the needs of patients,” the researchers write. “However, this brief presents data suggesting that other members of the household may also be affected by high financial burden.”