Media focus on endostatin helped -- not hurt --

that heralded the discovery and development of an agent called recombinant human endostatin (rh-Endo), an angiogenesis inhibitor designed to dry up a tumor's source of blood, starving it. In the article, researchers predicted endostatin might quickly prove to be a cure for cancer. The media blitz that followed was unusual in medical reporting because the drug had not been formally tested in humans.

When M. D. Anderson researchers geared up to run a small Phase I clinical trial of rh-Endo -- one of three centers in the country to conduct such a study -- they were ethically concerned that such "hyperbolic" coverage both in 1998 and at the launch of the clinical trials might draw patients who had little understanding of the purpose of a Phase I clinical trial, but were solely focused on the drug's ability to save their lives. Patients admitted into this beginning phase of testing have no curative treatment options, yet these trials are designed to determine safety and optimal dose, and monitor effectiveness -- it is not intended to prove clinical benefit.

To see if their worries were justified, they asked patients who were referred to the trial from physicians at M. D. Anderson to participate in a survey. Some of these patients were not being cared for at M. D. Anderson, but subsequently contacted the cancer center in the hopes of being seen and referred to the trial.

The seven-member ethics research team analyzed media coverage of the agent from 1997 to 2000 in three newspapers known for medical reporting -- The New York Times, Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune. They found that the majority of coverage was generally positive on the promise of endostatin -- only 25 percent of the articles gave what researchers called a "factual account."

They then surveyed 100 patients referred to the endostatin trial between October 1999 and November 2000. Almost half of survey participants (47 percent) had heard about endostatin from media sources, and 51 pe

Contact: Julie Penne or Laura Sussman
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

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