Michael Joyce is a writer-producer with HealthNewsReview.org and tweets as @mlmjoyce
This is quite the unjustified headline from a Stanford University School of Medicine news release:
Stanford claims that antibody-coated, magnetic nanoparticles can be engineered to bind with circulating cancer tumor cells (CTCs). A magnetized wire, introduced via a catheter into a peripheral blood vessel, can then bind to those magnetized CTCs and — according to the Stanford research team — capture many more cancer cells than a standard blood draw.
Only later in the news release do we learn two critical limitations of the research, published today in Nature Biomedical Engineering:
Regardless, the news release proffers “the technique could even help doctors evaluate a patient’s response to particular cancer treatments … perhaps, most intriguingly, the magnetic wire may even stand to evolve into a treatment itself.”
Compelling as that possibility may be, it’s premature to project such human applications from this proof-of-concept study in pigs. The news release highlights that the technique “attracts from 10-80 times more tumor cells than current blood-based cancer-detection methods, making it a potent tool to catch the disease earlier.” That’s in an animal model. Just how it would work in a human with cancer is unknown.
The speculative statements–which were bolstered by some similarly-speculative comments by the lead author himself–also made it into at least two news stories.
There are two other considerations to keep in mind. First, this isn’t a novel research approach. It’s been investigated for at least a decade.
Second–although the news release mentions three funding sources–it fails to mention that five of the 20 study authors have filed for patent protection for the MagWIRE technology used in this study.
Given these caveats, the most appropriate and accurate headline would have been to replace “people” with “pigs” … but who would have clicked on that?