We don’t always comment on medical research news from overseas. But when we know it might impact US news coverage and news consumers – as when the New York Times drooled over a French artificial heart last week or when the New York Daily News would lead you to believe a cancer cure is right down the pike – then we write about it.
New case in point: A story in The Herald of Scotland headlined, “Breast Cancer Breakthrough.” Excerpt:
“The researchers at Edinburgh University have established that a specific gene plays a key role in causing the spread of an aggressive form of the disease. Dr Elad Katz, who led the study, said that in test-tube experiments they had already managed to halt the spread of tumour cells by targeting drugs at the gene.”
OK, it’s clear that it’s very early interesting research. The story goes on with a researcher’s quote:
“We are at an early stage, but there is now a real possibility there could be a new treatment for women with HER2 positive breast cancer.”
Hmm. That’s letting him get away with a bit of leap. Yes, there’s that possibility. There’s also the huge possibility that there would NOT be a new treatment. But let’s go on.
“Drugs that can potentially kill ¬cancer cells that rely on C35 are already in development. They do this by disabling a protein associated with the gene, which stops it from working.
Katz explained: “The real potential here is not to replace Herceptin, but the fact we can improve on it.”
Semantics is important. It’s not a FACT that they can improve on Herceptin until they, in fact, have done so. Back to the story:
“Professor David Harrison, director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit, said: “It is exciting to know there is a drug out there which could potentially stop this ¬process happening and save the lives of women with breast cancer.
“We now need to do more work in the lab to prove this ¬concept before we can start patient trials.” “
Well, there isn’t a drug “out there” yet. But thanks for the reminder that human trials have not yet begun. Perhaps a bit early to tell a general audience that there’s been a breakthrough.