Boffey, Philip M. "Limited Surgery Gains in Breast Cancer Study," New York Times 14 March

 

Boffey, Philip M. "Limited Surgery Gains in Breast Cancer Study," New York Times 14 March
1990, pp. 1, A18.

This page 1 announcement concerns the publication of Bernard Fisher, and others, of the results
of their study of mastectomies. This newspaper splashes the news that "less may be better" when
it comes to treating breast cancer. Today, simultaneously, the New England Journal of Medicine
and the New York Times make this announcement: a recent study of breast cancer and its
treatment suggests that relatively minor surgery is just as effective as it the radical mastectomy.
The NCI stages this press conference to make the announcement and DaVita is there to say that
his Institute funded this important work.

The study involved 5.5 megabucks and 89 hospitals around the country. There were some 1700
women involved. This is Big Science and it produces big news.

"The study's results are bound to be controversial in the field of cancer surgery where there have
been heated arguments in the past two decades over the best form of treatment. Publication of the
results, in the March 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine was delayed for more
than a year while the journal had the manuscript reviewed." (p. 1)

There is not a word here about the significace of the delayed publication of these results, that
DaVita had offered the authors another journal (his journal) in which to publish their findings.
There is not a word here about the higher prestige of the NEJM and that prestige being the reason
why the article was not published several years before. There is no question here of the probity of
delaying this publication and the harm done to women who had surgery in the years between
1981 and 1985. This is an article which deals only with the NCI announcement and the NEJM
article.