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Should You Trust Online Ads Touting Personalized Cancer Treatment?

For patients diagnosed with cancer and their families, finding an effective treatment can be an arduous and emotional journey. Unfortunately, some companies play on the desire to find a cure and then fail to deliver on their promises.

Websites touting personal cancer medicine are on the rise. They offer a range of services from analyzing tumor tissue to determining person’s cancer risk. While some may be beneficial, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate these tests. Therefore, it can be difficult to discern which ones have been proven to be effective.

To better understand the Internet marketing landscape, a team of researchers led by Dr. Stacy W. Gray, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, examined 55 websites that market personalized cancer medicine, individualized cancer treatment or targeted cancer care. Of those, more than half (56 percent) were commercially sponsored. The remaining websites were backed by academic institutions (20 percent), private institutions (15 percent), and individual physicians (2 percent).

As Reuters reports, the researchers convened an expert panel of physicians to help assess whether the advertised cancer tests had enough evidence to support claims that they could treat cancer. Information was considered trustworthy if it was supported by valid scientific evidence, such as large randomized controlled trials.

Overall, the experts concluded that less than one-third of the websites promoting personalized cancer treatment sold tests that they would endorse. Also concerning, the study revealed that the medical websites tended to tout the benefits of their services far more often than they disclosed the limitations.

“The take home message for patients and doctors is that they need to be careful and critically evaluate what they see online,” Gray told Reuters Health. “If patients encounter things online they’re curious about, they should talk to their providers about whether those tests are helpful.”

If you or someone you love has suffered from medical negligence, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.