Health News Review

It took The Daily Telegraph of the UK nearly 200 words and 8 sentences to get around to explaining that the headline above pertained to a study conducted in mice.

And when the story did get around to it, here’s how it was reported:

“Although the study was conducted in mice, researchers are confident it would work in humans and are hopeful that human trials will begin soon.

“This helps your own immune system fight off the cancer better. The good guys win. And it seems to work on all cancers,” said (the) study co-leader.”

It’s difficult to play the cheerleader role any stronger than that.

Even though human trials haven’t even begun, researchers are confident it will work.   Hey, why even bother with the trials then?

And the researcher quote makes a direct reference to helping “your own immune system fight off the cancer better.”  Your immune system.  Not the mice in the study.  Yours.

And to top it all off, they let the researcher get away – unchallenged – with making claims of efficacy against ALL cancers.

Amazing.

If you didn’t see my post from a few days ago about the BMJ piece, “How predictive and productive is animal research?“, this would be a good time to read it to become re-grounded in the reality of how far is the leap between most animal research and most human applications.

Read the reader comments left online at the end of the Telegraph story for evidence of how people are being turned off by this kind of journalism.  We’re not giving them what they need when we shovel this kind of stuff at them daily. Examples of reader sentiment:

  • “This may be another premature announcement of a cancer cure that will raise false hopes about its effectiveness and availability.”
  • “(This reporter), along with so many other science correspondents, is an unfeeling blighter. Has she no idea the effect of her announcing these miracle cures as if they are obtainable? They wax on about miracle drugs giving terminal patients hope only to have them dashed when you get down to the truth of the matter – it’s “maybe” – in umpteen years – at a cost of $MEGA – which the health service wont pay anyhow.

    Have some consideration you rat-bag headline seekers!”

  • “Like all these sensational headlines we will hear nothing again about this.”

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Comments

Brian Hanley posted on June 12, 2014 at 11:14 pm

There is a current human clinical trial. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02100852 If you look again, the top of the article discusses a human clinical trial. The mouse model work is for other cancers.
http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/content/118/13/3603?variant=short&sso-checked=1 There is clinical work published back in 2011.
The correct interpretation of that article is that the mouse work was necessary to support new clinical trials for other cancers. When an IND application is made, animal study work is required to support the application. The application for this delta inhibitor is strong for human safety, because trials have already been successful. But prior to this mouse work there was nothing that could be pointed to saying that this drug would work for something besides leukemia. In this case your cynicism is not correct.

    Brian Hanley posted on June 12, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    PS – I am a scientist working on some other areas. But I have no connection with this company, or this drug. :

      Gary Schwitzer posted on June 13, 2014 at 7:08 am

      Brian,

      Thanks for your note.

      You are a scientist. I am a journalist trying to improve how research is communicated to the public. It appears we have different goals.

      I stand by my criticism of the story in question. It buried the fact that the latest work was in mice, and it allowed the researcher to make leap of faith projections. That is sound criticism, not cynicism.