Jennifer Couzin-Frankel writes in Science a nearly perfect report on a recent cancer immunotherapy study. The article describes a study co-led by Carl June, cancer researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, and Edward Stadtmauer, who performs blood cancer treatment at the University of Pennsylvania, as well. June and Stadtmauer combined the well-known gene-editing technology, CRISPR, and T cell therapy to alter three cancer patients’ T cells, Couzin-Frankel reports. As this clinical trial was the first of its kind in the United States, its goal was to prove the feasibility of the treatment process under examination, which the study achieved. CRIPSR-edited T cells were seen in patients at least nine months following the procedure, longer than similar T cell therapy accomplished, a promising result for this novel therapy and developing field.
Couzin-Frankel provides a clear and concise account of the UPenn conducted study, summarizing the scientific analysis in an article that is easy to follow, despite the heavy science content. The article provides opinions on the research, including quotes from a doctor not involved with the study, Antoni Ribas. Couzin-Frankel also includes information on other studies conducted within the field, such as CAR-T cell therapy studies, and provides the comparison between their findings to the findings of the study of discussion, helping to give the reader a holistic and comparative understanding. Couzin-Frankel writes in an unbiased manner, free from opinion, emotional appeal, and unexplained scientific jargon, making for an informative and enjoyable read.
Jennifer Couzin-Frankel’s news story for Science magazine reports on research from the University of Pennsylvania, which aimed to show that combining CRISPR with T cell therapy is a feasible and safe strategy for cancer treatment. The researchers, whose article was published in Science, pinpointed proteins to be targeted by the treatment, and the CRISPR-edited cells lasted for 9 months. However, despite the safety of the treatment, patient outcomes were not promising. The most notable improvement was in the sarcoma patient, but his cancer still progressed beyond his initial decrease in tumor size. The lack of promising evidence may have been due to the small sample size of patients who underwent the treatment. Another reason may be that NY-ESO-1 is a weak treatment target, even though it is a safe one.
Frankel remains neutral in her reporting. She does not fear-monger, sensationalize, or use emotionally charged language throughout the news story. Frankel accurately states the article intent, method, results and claims, including many independent, reputable sources from multiple perspectives to increase the credibility of the communicated findings. The original research paper is linked within the news story, which is harder to notice compared to a link at the end of the news story, but it still allows readers to follow-up with the reported information. The paper is also publicly available, encouraging further investigation into the topic.
However, the news article does have room for improvement. Causal, unsourced information is included when comparing cell longevity after CRISPR to cell longevity after comparable CAR-T cell therapy studies. No examples of these studies are given to support the claim that CRISPR-edited cells lasted for longer, which makes this claim less reliable. Jargon is also occasionally left unexplained, such as “chimeric antigen receptor” and “immune response”, which makes the reporting less accessible to readers.
In terms of general accessibility, Frankel’s biography, email and previous publications are available on the website, allowing for follow-up if needed. The research paper upon which the news story is based is linked within the article, but it is not made sufficiently clear that this is the study that is the focus of the reporting. Perhaps a link below the news story may have helped to more clearly indicate the original study.
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