Let Them Eat Hype
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.
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.
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
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