Dr. Vinay Prasad finds language distorts public understanding of cancer drug efficacy

November 6, 2015

Vinay PrasadResearch published by Vinay Prasad, M.D., MPH, assistant professor of medicine, OHSU School of Medicine, appeared this week in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) Oncology analyzing the use of superlative language in the description of cancer drugs. The use of terms like "breakthrough," "game changer," "miracle" and "cure" among others by journalists and researchers were found to distort the public's understanding of cancer treatment, creating unrealistic expectations, frustration and disappointment. 

"Searching the Web for recent news articles about cancer treatments, Prasad found that half of the drugs dubbed with superlatives hadn't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective. Of particular concern, 14 percent were praised without ever having been given to a human being.

'I find that egregious,' says Prasad, 'Like if a news story did an article about a guy who won the lottery, asking him what he's going to do with the money, when he actually just bought a lottery ticket.'

The hype can make oncologists feel like dream dashers."

Read the full article on NPR