Phosphorylate my Face
Just another SFN Blogs site

Let Them Eat Hype

May 16th, 2011 by Greippi

Currently circulating around a social site I frequent is a news article from 2007 about a “miracle drug that cures cancer but no one has taken any noticer”. There is much outrage from users about why little has been heard about this drug since then. Conspiracy theories are popping up left right and centre.

As a lone scientist amongst the masses, I decided to set things to rights. I spent a couple of hours researching the drug in question (dichloroacetate).

What happened in 2007 is your typical media frenzy that occurs every so often when a scientist says “this might be something that could help with cancer” and turns into headlines declaring a “miracle cure”. In this case, the hype snowballed because New Scientist (a reputable science magazine) did a news piece on it, and at the time it did seem promising.

In a nutshell:

Recent studies have shown that dichloroacetate may indeed be effective in helping battle cancer. Other studies have shown that it is ineffective or even harmful to the body. It is by no means a cure, and is a long way off from being licensed for use as an anti-cancer drug.
Drugs undergo years of testing before they’re put on the market. Just because something shows promise in early trials (in this case) doesn’t mean it’ll be proved effective in later tests. The media likes to over-hype things (particularly the tabloid press). Be wary.

This is a much better article, explaining things in a lot more detail, that I found later.

Unfortunately my research was futile. Despite a year of my masters degree being about drug design and mechanisms of disease, I was told I’m “unqualified” to contribute to the debate because I am now working in photosynthesis research. I was also told to take my ego-tripping elsewhere.
If sharing of knowledge, and having access to research papers, is ego-tripping then there is no hope for the world.

The worst thing was that I was accused of being a plant biologist. This is the worst insult I could possibly imagine.

I think they were just upset to be told that they’d been taken in by hype.hype

Michelakis, E., Sutendra, G., Dromparis, P., Webster, L., Haromy, A., Niven, E., Maguire, C., Gammer, T., Mackey, J., Fulton, D., Abdulkarim, B., McMurtry, M., & Petruk, K. (2010). Metabolic Modulation of Glioblastoma with Dichloroacetate Science Translational Medicine, 2 (31), 31-31 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3000677

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

  1. CharonY

    IIRC it did not even enter the trial phase. The publication was a piece of the early discovery phase (i.e. where most associations will be invalidated later on). I do not even think that a pre-clinical trial has been initiated.
    At least in this case the media hype/outrage is of relative little consequence (as opposed to the anti-vaccine movement, for example).

  2. CharonY

    Oh dear. I just clicked on the first link because I needed distraction.
    “In human bodies there is a natural cancer fighting human cell, the mitochondria,”

    Now my brain hemorrhages.

    The article is not only pure sensationalism but also demonstrates incredible ignorance on the subject. Nothing new, obviously, but still.

  3. Greippi

    Good point about the vaccine thing. Some people are just…ridiculous.

    I know, I started trying to discuss what else was wrong with the article other than the sensationalism.But my brain went the same way as yours.

    But then again, maybe we’d be burbling taken in by hype twerps too if we weren’t scientists.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.