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Recently, The Jerusalem Post reported that a team of Israeli scientists may have discovered the cure for cancer. That same day, the New York Post piggybacked on the story, followed soon by other online news sources. Both reported claims by the developer that a “complete cure for cancer” would be offered “in a year’s time.”
A complete cure for cancer? By next year?
If this story sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. A quick look into the company website, or a consultation with almost anyone in the medical research field, will tell you that these claims are not realistic. It’s irresponsible journalism, and it’s not fair to patients. It’s fake news.
But every few years we see another story about a groundbreaking new miracle drug that’s supposed to totally eradicate cancer. And every time these articles come out, they provide false hope to people who deserve better. So, let’s look at the Israeli cancer claim. Let’s look at how and why stories like this keep making their way onto our screens. And let’s find a way to sort through what’s real and what isn’t.
The “Cancer Cure” Story
Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd. (AEBi), a small company founded in 2000, claims to have found a complete cure for cancer. They equate their treatment to a “cancer antibiotic” because of the way it attacks cancer cells. The article in The Jerusalem Post was based on an interview with AEBi’s chairman, Dan Aridor, who’s quote was the foundation for many of the headlines:
We believe we will offer in a year’s time a complete cure for cancer… Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market. Our solution will be both generic and personal.”
Those are some pretty big claims. Unfortunately, they seem to be unfounded. If The Jerusalem Post had bothered to consult even one expert, they’d have known that these claims are virtually impossible. A review of AEBi’s website provides a few graphs and microscope slides but little more.
You see, the studies this company has conducted so far have only been on mice or in petri dishes. They haven’t begun any human studies. They haven’t even published their existing research. Aridor says their results are “consistent and repeatable,” though no one has yet seen the study results. There’s no doubt the company is pursuing a new approach to cancer treatment, or that they feel confident about the results so far. But to say that they’ll have a cure within the year? Fake news.
The New York Post published a follow-up article in which they asked experts about the claims that Aridor and Dr. Ilan Morad, the company’s CEO, had made. The response was invariably negative, with one doctor saying that the claim was “yet another in a long line of spurious, irresponsible and ultimately cruel false promises for cancer patients.”
Others pointed out that cancer is a name we use for a myriad of diseases. Each type of cancer is unique, so the chances that one cocktail can effectively treat all types without catastrophic collateral damage are very slim. The creator’s antibiotic comparison falls short as well; different antibiotics are used to address different infections. And almost all of them can help create resistant strains down the road.
Still others focused on the challenges of transitioning from rodent studies to clinical human trials. One study published in January last year put the odds of a cancer drug going to market at 3.4 percent. Chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society Dr. Len Lichtenfeld summed it up this way:
If this group is just beginning clinical trials, they may well have some difficult experiments ahead. It is certainly possible this approach may work. However, as experience has taught us so many times, the gap from a successful mouse experiment to effective, beneficial application of exciting laboratory concepts to helping cancer patients at the bedside is in fact a long and treacherous journey, filled with unforeseen and unanticipated obstacles.”
Can the idea behind this new treatment work?
Are we all hoping that this new drug is as safe and effective as its creators claim?
But is it reasonable to make claims that a cure will be available inside of a year?
Even Forbes, who had originally covered the Jerusalem Post story with little criticism, posted a follow up article titled “An Israeli Company Claims That They Will Have A Cure For Cancer In A Year. Don’t Believe Them.” The article features one account after another by professionals explaining why the claims of a cure are greatly exaggerated.
How do fake news articles like this make it to print?
The Role of the Media
For starters, the companies that are pushing the latest drugs are more than eager to get the word out. In the case of AEBi, Dr. Morad told The Times of Israel that a lack of funding is the reason their studies have not been published. Is it possible that the company is hoping to generate new investment? Is this interview just a ploy to bring in more money? Perhaps not, but I certainly think so.
Plus, a cure for cancer is a pretty big story. Who wouldn’t want an exclusive first take on that news? The clicks alone can generate tons of income for the outlet that publishes the story. But media outlets like The Jerusalem Post, New York Post, and even The Truth About Cancer have a responsibility to due diligence and balanced reporting. In an ideal world, everything you read would be well-researched, peer-reviewed, and unbiased.
Sadly, this often isn’t the case. We’ve become conditioned to scroll through story after story. Social media has become a way to unwind, and we’re rarely on guard against news that is wrong, incomplete, or excessively biased. The bigger the publication, the easier it is to believe what we’re reading. And that’s why fake news continues to permeate the media.
There were many who celebrated the news when it was first published. “We did it! The cure is just a year away!” But by the next morning, news outlets had begun to question the claims, and experts had started to expose what was ultimately a bogus story spreading false hope to those who need hope most.
In today’s world, the truth has become increasingly hard to spot. The constant stream of information we see on a daily basis has made us complacent, rarely questioning the validity of the information. Sure, we tend to be critical of information that goes against our existing beliefs, but when we read a story that we agree with, we often fail to properly evaluate it before clicking the trusty “like” and “share” buttons.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition found that, by increasing analytic and actively open-minded thinking, we can reduce the acceptance of fake news. When we take the time to evaluate what we’re reading, we’re more likely to discern what information is real and what information is fake.
It’s important that we follow facts, not feelings.
We want to believe in this treatment. We would love to be proven wrong and see this great breakthrough proven viable over the next year. But false hope is not what people need. We started this mission because we saw what cancer and conventional treatments did to my family. We continue the mission because we genuinely care about each and every one of you.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with cancer yourself, or have a loved one facing a diagnosis, TTAC exists for you. When we bring you information about nutrition, new studies, or news from the medical industry, we want you to know that integrity is at the core of our values.
We truly hope that Dr. Morad really has found a way to beat cancer for good. We hope Mr. Aridor is right when he says they’ll be able to offer a solution within a year. But we don’t want you to put your hope in something that is unlikely to happen. We believe that selling false hope is wrong. But the truth will set us free. And the truth is that there are already dozens of herbs, roots, and foods that grow everywhere that have anti-cancer properties. We write about them all the time here at TTAC.
Remember… cancer patients have cancer because their bodies are sick. Not vice versa. And a sick body needs nutrition, not chemicals.
Keep checking in with us for honest reporting on today’s health news. Misleading and unbalanced information can make it hard to determine what’s real. We want to give you transparent coverage that tells you everything you need to know without sensationalism, click bait, or gimmicks. We’re here for one reason, and that’s to bring you the truth about cancer.