The modern tragedy of fake cancer cures

(Matthew Herper/ Stat News) — So it happened again. An underreported story about a half-baked advance in cancer medicine caught fire and scorched its way through social media, onto network TV, and into the minds of millions of people.

To start, no. There won’t be “a complete cure for cancer” in a year’s time, as the chairman of a small Israeli biotechnology firm predicted to the Jerusalem Post. The claim, absurd on its face, was particularly frustrating to those who work in medicine and drug development because it seemed so obvious there was not enough evidence to make it.

It doesn’t take a lot of complicated biology to understand why. You simply need the information contained in the Post’s article: that the data available so far are from a single study in mice and that they have not been published in a scientific journal.

Saying that most experiments in mice don’t translate to human beings doesn’t quite get the point across. It’s more correct to say that almost none of them do. (…)

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