Media irresponsibility

KEY TAKEAWAY: There is nothing worse than promising very sick or dying patients with false hope of a “miracle cure”. Yet, Forbes and other media outlets, like The Hill, have spread the story about a small team of Israeli scientists who are telling the world they will have the first “complete cure” for cancer within a year. And not only that, but they claim it will be brief, cheap and effective and will have no or minimal side-effects. This company is another Theranos?

God help online health seekers! Time and time again, in research, I hear people talk about the bad health information they find online. It’s gotten so bad that I have started to hear from some thought leaders that “it’s getting out of control”. Yet the story about a “possible cancer cure” is circulating on some reputable sites “The Hill”.

Where is the FDA?

And where is the FDA? At a minimum, they should be releasing information about the validity of this information and how they are skeptical of these claims. Caregivers or cancer patients could look at this bravado as their last hope. I contacted some oncology though leaders and they say that a minimum this company could be another Theranos.

As I have written before, the search for online health information is really “buyer beware”. The FDA says “anyone who suffers from cancer, or knows someone who does, understands the fear and desperation that can set in,” says Kornspan. “There can be a great temptation to jump at anything that appears to offer a chance for a cure.”

In addition a  study on cancer survival rates published in JAMA Oncology found that relying on fake treatment in addition to real treatments doubles the five-year death rate from cancer. This is because patients who have bought into fake treatments are much more likely to refuse real treatments. The refusal rates among people who use fake treatments are 70 times higher for surgery. Almost half of people refused radiotherapy compared with just 2 in 100 for people who only use real treatments. The Kaplan–Meier plot above is from the paper.

It’s time for credible health companies to help patients find and read credible health information. Stories about “miracle cures” are worthless and the media should be ashamed to promote such garbage.