Misleading headlines aren't helpful

The NHS Choices blog has a neat dissection of recent headlines about a “new breast cancer drug”. In fact, scientists have carried out research using breast cancer cells in the lab. This is a long way from being any kind of “new drug”.

As the NHS team highlight:

“This claim is not supported by the current research, which investigated the role of a gene called C35 in breast cancer cells in the laboratory. This did involve looking at certain chemicals that could interfere with the effects of C35 on cells in the laboratory, but it is much too soon to suggest that a ‘new drug’ has been developed that ‘stops’ the spread of breast cancer.”

While some news outlets did a good job of conveying this research accurately, others implied that a new drug was already available. Hyped-up reporting of lab research advances raises false hopes for patients and their families, and ultimately leads to a loss of confidence in the progress we’re making. And as Martin Ledwick, head of our Cancer Information Nurses, points out, when stories like this hit the headlines, we get many calls from distressed patients, asking if they can get hold of the ‘wonder drug’ du jour.

As our new advertising campaign shows, we are making significant progress in beating many cancers, and our research has been at the heart of this progress. But none of this happened overnight – the road from the scientist’s lab bench to the patient’s bedside is long and complex.