If you’ve been cruising Facebook, Twitter, or
Google+ lately, you’d have seen some breathless headlines claiming that Israeli scientists have discovered a miracle cure for cancer. And it will be ready in one year.
What a load of rubbish, balderdash, codswallop, claptrap, and nonsense.
I’d end the article right there because nothing more really needs to be written. But you come here for the snark, but stay for the science. Or come here for the science, and stay for the snark. Either way, I need to spend a few minutes of your time, and a couple of thousand words, to put this pile of equine excrement into a waste pit.
So let’s take a look at how some Israeli scientists will cure cancer. Spoiler alert – they can’t.
So how will these Israeli scientists cure cancer?
This claim comes from an Israeli company called AEBi, or Accelerated Evolution Biotechnology Ltd. It’s a creative, high-technology name that is meant to sound innovative and edgy. Or something.
The company was founded in 2000 to investigate a method to deliver drugs directly to cancers. Their technology relies upon developing molecules that can target receptors on cell surfaces.
To get into a little science, cells have all kinds of receptors on the surface of the cell that are critical to not only the cell itself but also to the overall physiology of the organism. Some receptors carry molecules into the cell’s interior. Some receptors are targets for signals, like insulin. And there are hundreds of more receptors that are critical to the health of the cell.
Cancer cells also have these receptors, because they are just mutated versions of normal cells. However, some cancer cells may have unique receptors to which one could attach a protein that carries another molecule that kills that cancer cell. You could trick the cancer cell to carry that poison into the cell while not harming normal cells. Sounds interesting right?
Can they really cure cancer?
I don’t know, because of one major issue. The principal scientists who appear to be leading this endeavor, Drs. Ilan Morad and Dan Aridor have published precisely nothing on this technology. Worse yet, Morad and Aridor have actually published nothing at all on cancer.
If these “researchers” actually had an amazing key to treating cancer, they’d be at forefront of every international cancer conference for the past few months or years. Yet, all I see are tumbleweeds floating across the desert.
In this breathless press release, which ranks near the bottom of the hierarchy of biomedical research just above Natural News, they claim that they have all of this amazing preclinical data that shows that this technology works in mice.
As I’ve written dozens of times, the only thing that matters is published evidence. Not claims in a press release. Not interviews in a newspaper. We want published data that can be reviewed, repeated, analyzed, and critiqued publicly.
Moreover, as I recently discussed in an article about cancer myths, preclinical research on mice may be intriguing. But it has little meaning.
There is a joke that I’ve repeated a hundred times – we’ve cured cancer in mice hundreds of thousands of times. The problem is that preclinical research rarely has application in real evidence-based medicine. Less than 1% of drugs that seem to work in mice ever make it to the point of actually receiving FDA approval to be used to treat any cancer.
Moreover, before a drug can be used in clinical trials, it requires FDA approval (or approval from some other large drug review agency like the European Medicines Agency, the EMA) to even start. And guess what, it’s not just the old dinosaur here demanding published data, the FDA will also. And they will demand all of the preclinical data to review before they approve a phase I clinical trial (see Note 1).
But let me remind everyone of a very important point about cancer – it is not one disease. It is not one disease, but hundreds of diseases lumped under the broad term “cancer.” The National Cancer Institute states that there are over 100 types of cancer. Cancer Research UK states that there are over 200 types of cancer. The American Cancer Society lists over 70 types of cancer (although some are more classes of cancer rather than a single type). Wikipedia lists over 180 different cancers.
More than that, there are some cancers that have 5-20 subtypes which may be completely different from one another. That means there could be literally thousands of cancers.
And they aren’t that similar. They all have different etiologies, pathophysiologies, treatments, and outcomes. It is entirely possible that there is “one cure to cure them all” out there because we haven’t discovered some common cellular feature for all cancers against which one drug can be used. However, that hasn’t been identified quite probably because it doesn’t exist.
I have written this elsewhere – if someone claims that they have a cure for cancer, run away fast because they don’t.
And can they cure cancer in one year?
No country, including Israel, the USA, and the European Union, will allow Phase I clinical trials before there is a detailed review of preclinical data. It will take over 2 years before the FDA, EMA or other agencies review the data, ask questions, review those answers, and review the clinical protocol before they will even begin trials.
Oh, but there’s more. Phase I trials for most drugs are done with healthy volunteers, just to determine if there are safety signals. Since cancer drugs may harm healthy cells, this becomes problematic. So these drugs are often tested late-stage cancer patients, and the results won’t tell us much unless we see a 100% improvement. Then, we might have a miracle.
Even if it is some miracle, it will still require significant review to see if it’s a miracle or a mirage.
And then the drug goes into Phase II trials, followed by Phase III trials. This whole process, from today until the drug is ready to be used broadly, may last 10 or more years. And no real oncologist will even look at this drug until the completion of published phase III clinical trials, unless, of course, there are some miracle results which leads to expedited reviews by regulators. And even then, they are extremely careful about what they approve and don’t approve.
This drug won’t be curing cancer, if it even can cure cancer, in one year. it might take more than ten years. IF it actually works.
Israeli scientist cure cancer summary
These Israeli scientists who have no reputation in cancer research, who are working on an approach that doesn’t appear to be scientifically sound, and who have not published any data, are making claims that are not supported by rational thought on cancer treatments and regulatory timelines.
The internet is filled with people who are looking for that miracle to cure cancer. People want one pill that they can take, and suddenly the cancer is gone. And some people think it’s easy, save for some ridiculous claims about conspiracies and secret cures hidden away for nefarious reasons.
The fact is that cancer research is really really really really difficult. That’s what makes me laugh about the pseudoscience charlatans pushing “cancer cures” – they want to convince everyone that it’s easy. Just give them a few thousand dollars, and they’ll cure you. And when they don’t, they just ask for more money, because it’s a scam.
Real researchers doing real cancer research never will claim that they can cure cancer in a year. Or even 10 years. They may say that they have good evidence that they have a new drug that may treat one cancer in conjunction with other strategies, but they won’t know if they’ve got something until clinical trials are completed. Because they know the path from idea to approved product is long, tortuous, and difficult.
Is it possible that the Israeli scientists actually have something? Doubtful, because other researchers have looked at similar ideas, and although there are some applications in cancer treatment, they are not the “one cure to cure them all.”
Will it become part of a treatment strategy for some cancers? I wish I knew, but lacking any scientific data to review, I’m not hopeful.
So internet, go back to cute cat photos. Or puppies. Or Trump tweets. Because there’s not much here. But I’ve got cute cat and puppy photos in case it’s easier to see here.
- The reader might ask why the company doesn’t get regulatory review and approval in Israel. That is possible, but it limits the market to Israel. Almost every pharmaceutical company in the world wants approval from the FDA, EMA, or Japan, since those are the largest markets for new drugs. Even if Israel’s drug review agency, the Pharmacy Department of the Israeli Ministry of Health, were to approve the drug for Phase I trials, it may not have any relevance to other agencies like the FDA and EMA, because the trial would be in a small group of a small population. But it is possible that even that Phase I trial would be acceptable before the research moves into Phase II and III trials.