Archived—Project Summaries 2006-2007 - Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society (IMPACS)

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1. Hope or Hype in Cancer Reporting: How do Media Reports of New Cancer Treatments Affect Consumers' Perceptions of Effectiveness, Harm and Access?


"Anyone facing a life-threatening condition, like cancer, is a highly vulnerable consumer. Intense controversies over limited access and the exorbitant cost of biologic cancer treatments fuel an almost-daily stream of media reports as these new treatments find their place in the market. The accompanying media stories themselves can create excruciating dilemmas for potential patients, and add to pressures faced by federal drug regulators, provincial government health plans and cancer agencies to speed up patient access and coverage for those therapies. The media can influence consumer perceptions of new technologies by virtue of the quality of coverage and the journalist's understanding of the evidence upon which new drug health claims are made. This project will address two issues: 1.) What is the current state of the quality of cancer treatment and access reporting in Canada and the US? 2.) In what ways do current media reports influence consumer demand, shape expectations and likely affect the uptake and demand for new cancer drugs? Because of the vulnerability of consumers and the limited primary research on impacts of mass media interventions, the rationale to gather evidence to answer these two questions is strong."

Using Lexis-Nexis and other media databases IMPACS will gather cancer drug articles from major Canadian and US print media outlets, specifically examining one or two costly cancer drugs from each category of breast cancer (ie: Herceptin (trastuzumab), non-small cell lung cancer (Tarceva (erlotinib), and advanced colon cancer (Avastin (bevacizumab) or Erbitux (cetuximab)). IMPACS will assess the volume and reach of the coverage (number of readers, scope of coverage, etc) and using Media Doctor rating procedures IMPACS will systematically rate these articles according to treatment and access criteria. IMPACS would stratify the group of articles as high, medium or low-scoring and then select a cohort of representative articles from each strata for focus group testing with a minimum of 10 consumer focus groups in Victoria and Vancouver with up to 10 participants each.

By using a standardized moderator's guide (same questions for each focus group) IMPACS will assess the impact of these stories on consumers' understanding, perceptions and expectations around issues of treatment efficacy and access. Focus groups would be video/audio taped, transcribed, and analyzed using NVivo qualitative analysis software.

Expected outcomes: This research may be one of the few systematic attempts to measure the impact on consumers of a sample of North American cancer drug media reports in terms of both therapeutic and access criteria. IMPACS hopes to its report to inform a variety of stakeholders including governments, advocacy groups and journalism outlets on the qualities and consumer perceptions of cancer drug reporting and use this pilot work to pinpoint areas for future research.