This whiteboard animation video is the fifth video in our ImPatient Science series for the Dr. Susan Love Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Dr. Susan Love wanted to use this educational video to take a critical and informative look at how the media reports on research breakthroughs and shares questions you can ask to assess the validity of the headlines.
Dr. Susan Love’s foundation has been a long-standing partner of Rip Media Group, and we’re thrilled to help them reach less advantaged communities and fight to end the existence of breast cancer.
Like all of our other videos for Dr. Susan Love, we followed a simple whiteboard animation video design concept.
The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation strives to end breast cancer in our lifetime, and we are proud to be able to support such a worthy organization and help them get the word out to as many people as they can.
For anyone using a screen reader, or anyone who doesn’t want to watch the video, find the transcript below!
I'm Dr. Susan Love, and I'm the chief visionary officer, the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. Our mission is a future without breast cancer. And we do that through innovative research into the cause and prevention of the disease. Impatient science is a series of whiteboard animation videos that help explain to you breast cancer, how it works and what your choices and options are
when it comes to cancer coverage. The media loves the word breakthrough, yet calling something a breakthrough doesn't necessarily mean it is one. It's not entirely the media's fault. You can trace a lot of the words they use to the press releases they receive. Universities, pharmaceutical companies and biotech organizations regularly put out press releases to tout their latest research findings. Their goal is to attract as much media attention as possible. They know the better their findings sound, the more attention they are likely to get.
It is important to think critically about any news stories you read or hear, especially when the story refers to cancer and new cancer treatments. For example, the difference between correlation and causation is an important distinction that is often left out,
Say a study that asks women what they eat for breakfast for the past ten years finds that women who ate oatmeal for breakfast had lower rates of breast cancer. This is a correlation. Both things happened to the same people, but it doesn't necessarily mean that one has caused the other. Proof of causation can be found only through a randomized controlled trial. In this case, a large group of women would be randomly divided into two groups, with only one group eating oatmeal for breakfast. Both groups would be followed for many years to see who developed breast cancer and who did not. In addition, the researchers would take into account other breast cancer risk factors such as exercise habits, smoking, and bodyweight that might affect the outcome.
Of course, nothing bad is likely to happen to you from eating oatmeal, but it is important to recognize that although correlations can give us hints for future studies, they don't prove causation.
Statistics are another common area of media confusion. There are many different ways studies can be analyzed. One result may be statistically significant, but that doesn't mean it is meaningful and will change cancer care. Let's say there were 1000 people in each arm of a two-armed study. It's possible that in one arm, 200 people died during the study, and in the other arm, only 100 people died. That's a 50 percent reduction in the mortality rate. But what if in one arm, four people died and in the other arm, only two people died?
In both cases, the drug reduced deaths by 50 percent. But the actual numbers show one result that is much more impressive than the other.
It's also important to take a look at where the study was done. Was it performed in the laboratory with mice and test tubes, or was it in the real world with humans?
Oftentimes, drugs are described as breakthroughs because of how they perform in the lab, in cells, or in mice or rats. We've cured cancer in mice many times over. However, those breakthroughs don't always translate into benefits for humans,
even though we all want cancer breakthroughs. Research is a slow incremental process. It's rarely headline news. Always look closely at what is really being reported and check your sources. Just because your friend forwarded you a link on Facebook doesn't mean it's true. Read the details and ask lots of questions.
The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation is dedicated to a future without breast cancer. And we do this through innovative research into the cause and prevention of the disease. We ask you to join us at https://drsusanloveresearch.org/. You can participate in our research. You can support our research because if we all work together, we can be the generation that ends breast cancer.