Cancer DTC ads are not misleading and exploitive

warning-doesntunderstand-500x2721KEY TAKEAWAY: Cancer DTC ads are not misleading patients and caregivers they educate patients about possible treatment options.  Despite what the author of a misleading article states cancer patients, more than anyone else, rely on their doctor to prescribe what is best.

Derek Lowe’s commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry is an editorially independent blog from the publishers of Science Translational Medicine.  However the author has not done his research and the article is null and void.

There’s an op-ed in the New York Times that makes tough reading, and it’s something that we’re going to be seeing more of. The author, Matt Jablow, lost his wife Ronna to non-small cell lung cancer, undiagnosed until a late stage, which is bad enough. Worse, they got to find out about it during a family vacation to Italy, and she was dead within two years of rapidly progressing disease. She was given Opdivo (nivolumab), the anti PD-1 therapy which has been much in the news, but this did nothing for her at all.  The author then goes on to blame the drug company by saying the are misleading the public via their DTC.


First let’s be clear about a couple of things:

1ne: There are patients who responded to Opdivo and living months with treatment.

2wo: There is no cancer drug on the market that’s going to be a “moonshot” for a majority of patients.

3hree: No patient is going to go into an Oncologist and ask for Opdivo and get it unless their Oncologist thinks it might work.

Now the comments in the article are a good read as well unfortunately most of the people are ill informed.


Most cancers are preventable.The evidence is increasingly accumulating that cancer may be preventable. A recent study published in Nature argues that there is a lot we can do to ward off cancer. Many studies have shown that environmental risk factors and exposures contribute greatly to many cancers. Diet is related to colorectal cancer. Alcohol and tobacco are related to esophageal cancer. HPV is related to cervical cancer, and hepatitis C is related to liver cancer.

Most recently, in JAMA Oncology, researchers sought to quantify how a healthful lifestyle might actually alter the risk of cancer. They identified four domains that are often noted to be related to disease prevention: smoking, drinking, obesity and exercise.


They defined people who engaged in healthy levels of all of these activities as a “low risk” group. Then they compared their risk of getting cancer with people who weren’t in this group. They included two groups of people who have been followed and studied a long time, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, as well as national cancer statistics.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]About 82 percent of women and 78 percent of men who got lung cancer might have prevented it through healthy behaviors[/inlinetweet]. About 29 percent of women and 20 percent of men might have prevented colon and rectal cancer. About 30 percent of both might have prevented pancreatic cancer. Breast cancer was much less preventable: 4 percent.

DTC ads are meant to inform and educate, but when it comes to cancer drugs, they also can give a patient hope.  Oncologists don’t know if patients are going to respond to drug A or drug B but as long as some patients are responding they should be on the market.