An Israeli biotech company recently claimed that they will have a cure for cancer in a year's time. Various news outlets wrote about the story, spreading excitement, but there’s one crucial problem. There is no evidence to substantiate the claims.
The researchers, from a company called Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies, were originally interviewed by The Jerusalem Post, and made some pretty bold statements, to say the least. The story was then picked up by The New York Post, who failed to ask some vital questions.
“We believe we will offer in a year’s time a complete cure for cancer,” the researchers said. “Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market.”
The idea behind the research is certainly interesting – it apparently uses a number of peptides in combination with a toxin to stop cancer cells from functioning properly. The researchers say the approach can target multiple cancer receptors at the same time. However, they don't give away many details, and even if the basic science seems plausible, there's a glaring problem with the researchers’ claims.
First, they appear to suggest that cancer is just one disease that requires a single overarching cure. That just isn’t true. Cancer is actually an umbrella term that refers to over 200 diseases. Different types require different treatments, and success can vary from patient to patient.
“A single ‘magic bullet’ cure for cancer is extraordinarily unlikely,” cancer researcher Dr David Grimes wrote on Twitter. “It'd be like expecting the same methods that fix your dishwasher to get your car running. It's also why we have many treatment modalities for cancer, from radiation to immunotherapy.”
Another massive problem with what the researchers say is that they’ve only carried out experiments on mice. That means they’re a very long way off using their approach to treat people. They need to go through a number of human clinical trials to test both the safety and efficacy of their treatment.
"Clinical trials take years to complete and they haven’t even started them yet," Professor Henning Walczak, Head of the Department of Cancer Biology at University College London's Cancer Institute, told IFLScience. "In fact, they are still at the preclinical stage – doing 'first exploratory mice experiments' as they themselves state. What this means is that they are probably still a couple of years away from starting clinical trials as there is no mentioning of whether they have already worked on the production process of their so-called drug."
Therefore, the claims that the drug will be ready within a year and that it causes “minimal side-effects” are totally false. What’s more, the current research doesn’t appear to have been published by a scientific journal, meaning it hasn’t undergone the crucial peer-review process.
"There appears to be no scientific basis for their claim to provide a cure for cancer, let alone within a year," said Walczak. "No serious cancer researcher would make bold claims as the ones made by these people without providing any credible data to support them.
"They are playing with the hopes of millions of cancer patients on the basis of – what appears to me – next to nothing in terms of credible data. In my view, this is simply appalling."
While scientists across the globe are working tirelessly to find new and effective ways to tackle cancer, with varying levels of success, it’s very important to remember that curing cancer is a very complex and lengthy journey. It’s incredibly unlikely there’ll be one single cure, and any new treatments will certainly take much longer than a year to perfect.