Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How cancer quacks profit from science

Here at the bayblab, we routinely cure cancer, so when we hear of a miracle cure in the media we tend to be skeptical. More often than not, it tends to be an exaggeration of some in-vitro findings that are blown out of proportion by some over-eager journalist with a poor understanding of medical science. Unfortunately, often the scientist is misquoted, and the conspiracy theory of big pharmas not wanting to deliver a cure resurfaces. Of course this is bad for the scientist, it's bad for the general population who constantly ears about cancer being cured without any concrete drugs being offered, and it is bad for the patient, because cancer quacks will prey on their hopes. DCA, which was studied at the University of Alberta, is a simple chemical that can be used to combat the warburg effect (which we'll explain in the upcoming episode 9 of the podcast). It was even featured on "the current" on CBC last week. The findings published in Cancer Cell were promising, but need to be further investigated. However that doesn't stop cancer quacks to turn in a profit while pushing DCA to desperately ill cancer patients, a chemical that is highly toxic, a carcinogen, and teratogenic. This article explains how this remarkable discovery was perverted by unscrupulous people.


3 comments:

Willis said...

I think that the conspiracy theorists are wrong when they blame big pharma, but I do think this is a huge deal. If you are scientifically-inclined grad students, I would love to hear your thoughts on the science of the Alberta group's Cancer Cell paper. Below is a link to one of my comments on Orac's blog where I have attempted to summarize the paper (it links to another post I made previously on Terra Sig for part of the summary).

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/05/dichloroacetate_and_the_dca_site_a_low_b.php#comment-433808

Bayman said...

From what I've heard, I'm not totally convinced quackery is to blame here. I think that what happened in this case was that the media jumped all over the DCA story when it first came out and hyped the hell out of it. One of the reasons they liked the story was the idea that drug that was already available might cure cancer.

I think it is this media hype (particularly the message that the drug was available) that created a huge demand for the drug amongst desperate cancer patients, to the point where anyone with a bit of chemistry knowledge started making the stuff in their basements and selling it online. Unlike classic quackery, (ie W.O'N. style) the people making and selling the drug are not the ones making the claims; this was already done by the media. In fact, it's sold on some websites "for veterinary use".

In this case, I think the lesson is not that there are quacks out there that need to be shut down, but that scientists and journalists need to be responsible about how they convey medical research to the public. Rather than accurately conveying the limitations, complexities and hurdles that are integral to any research program, the media too often give in to sensationalism. Scientists, for their part need to be aware of this tendency and help journalists get the message right. Certainly scientists should avoid the temtation to exploit over-exagerrated reporting to garner fame and funding, however this also happens too often.

Anonymous Coward said...

Pet use? How naive are you...