Thursday, 12 April 2012

'Wonder jab' story 'over-hyped and misleading'

On Monday 9 April, the Express published its latest 'cancer cure' story:

On 20 January, the paper reported that statins beat cancer:

On 10 March, it was 'new aspirin':

Two days later, it was aspirin:

Now it is a 'wonder jab' that kills '90% of the cancers'.

The Express seems to have picked up the story from the Telegraph, which referred to a 'universal cancer vaccine'.

The Telegraph seems to have got the story from a press release (pdf) issued by the producers of the vaccine in question. It cites unpublished results from just seven patients.

Both articles include a quote from Dr Kat Arney of Cancer Research UK, but both relegate it to the very end. She says:

“There are several groups around the world investigating ­treatments that target MUC1 as it’s a very ­interesting target involved in several types of cancer.

“These are very early results that are yet to be fully published, so there’s a lot more work to be done to prove that this particular vaccine is safe and effective.”

On the Cancer Research UK Science Blog, she wrote more about these stories:
We are concerned that some of the coverage of this story has been over-hyped and misleading.

She added:

It’s important to be cautious about the results from the early-stage trial of ImMucin reported in the media, which are based on data from seven patients (out of ten treated so far) with multiple myeloma – a cancer affecting the immune system.

Furthermore, the team’s results are yet to be published in the scientific literature – the ‘gold standard’ for reliable research. Instead, the results have come directly from a press release from Vaxil Biotherapeutics Ltd, the company that makes the vaccine – something that wasn’t made clear in some of the media coverage of the story...

While MUC1 is certainly an important target in cancer and the results from the handful of myeloma patients in the ImMucin trial look promising, it’s a far cry from being a “wonder jab” that “kills 90% of all cancers”.

Finally, Arney noted that following the publication of these stories, Cancer Research UK had been contacted by concerned patients asking about the treatment:

We’ve already been contacted by cancer patients wondering how to get access to this “wonder jab” as a result of the news coverage. As we’ve said before, over-hyped stories like this only serve to raise false hopes in people suffering from cancer and mislead the public.

Every day cancer researchers in labs and hospitals around the world are making huge strides against this terrible disease, and their progress and successes deserve to be reported to the public. But misrepresenting and over-selling their early baby-steps isn’t helpful to anyone, most of all cancer patients and their families.

Perhaps Cancer Research UK should forward these calls to the Telegraph's Richard Gray and the Express' Paul Broster. 

1 comment:

  1. Attempting to shift units by raising false hopes among cancer sufferers really does take "contemptible" to a new level.


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