XRAYS - Making Sense of Cancer Headlines

FORCE’s eXamining the Relevance of Articles for Young Survivors (XRAYS) program is a reliable resource for breast cancer research-related news and information. XRAYS reviews new breast cancer research, provides plain-language summaries, and rates how the media covered the topic. XRAYS is funded by the CDC.

XRAYS logo and women

Promise of a cure for cancer is too good to be true


This research is relevant for:

Checked Breast cancer survivors

Unhecked Women under 45

Unhecked Women over 45

Checked Men with breast cancer

Checked Metastatic breast cancer

Checked Triple negative breast cancer

Unhecked Previvors

Unhecked BRCA mutation carriers

Checked ER/PR +

Checked Her2+ breast cancer

Checked Special populations: People diagnosed with cancer

Be a part of XRAYS

XRAYS:  Making Sense of Cancer Headlines

Summary:

The Jerusalem Post published an article titled, “A cure for cancer?  Israeli scientists may have found one.” The story profiled a small Israeli company called Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies that has been working on developing new cancer treatments since 2000. The article relied almost entirely on an interview with the company’s chairperson of the board who made a series of unsubstantiated claims that included that, in a year’s time, the company will offer a complete cure for cancer. (2/12/19)

32 likes

Contents

Missing data What do the experts say?
Scientific best practices Summary
Researchers' response Resources


ARTICLE AT A GLANCE

This article is about:

An Israeli company’s claims that they have a cure for cancer and that it will be available soon.

Jerusalem Post article spreads rapidly and widely

Following the publication of the Jerusalem Post titled, “A cure for cancer?  Israeli scientists may have found one” the article and its claims that an Israeli company has discovered a complete cure for cancer and that it will be available within the year were rapidly picked up by major news outlets including: 

Who is Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd?

The company making the claim, Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd (AEBi), is a small biotech in Israel. Currently, AEBi consists of 3 individuals:  lan Morad, PhD in Organic Chemistry and AEBi founder and CEO; Hanan Itzhaki, PhD in Agriculture and Chief Science Officer; and Dan D. Aridor, MBA from the Columbia Business School and Chairman of the Board. 

The Jerusalem Post article included this quote from Aridor:

“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.” 

Missing data

While many news outlets covered the story and patients discussed it on social media, there is one glaring and critical problem: 

  • There is no scientific evidence to support AEBi’s claims. 

PubMed, is one of the most reliable and up-to-date sources of peer-reviewed published research.  A thorough search of PubMed shows no publications either from the company or any of the three individuals that support its claims.

  • Ian Morad has 8 peer-reviewed manuscripts in PubMed.  One from 2001 is on patient education and its impacts on outcomes in the gastrointestinal setting; while the other 7 span the 1990s and focus on tRNAs (cellular molecules that help build proteins).
     
  • Hanan Itzhaki has 12 peer-reviewed manuscripts in PubMed, 10 of which were published in the 1990s on plant studies (not unexpected from someone with a PhD in Agriculture).  He authored one publication from 2002 on how p53 interacts with the human papilloma virus ( this is “related” to cancer but does not support the claim for a cure) and another 2013 manuscript in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.
     
  • Dan D. Aridor has no peer-reviewed publications.

Importantly, these two scientists and other company member do not have a record of accomplishment in publishing cancer research nor is there any evidence that they are experts in the technology they are using, (phage display).

(back to top)

Scientific best practices

Science is a long and arduous process that requires researchers to publish their results in peer-reviewed journals if they want their results to be accepted by the greater scientific community. This serves two purposes:

  • It allows other scientists to critically review the data to determine whether or not the study was performed in a valid manner and whether or not the conclusions are logical 
     
  • It also allows for other scientists to attempt to replicate the studies, which is an important way to validate new results.

Until AEBi publishes its data, which would allow scientific experts to review and validate the results, their claims of a cure are unproven. 

AEBi’s response to missing data

In response to the Jerusalem Post article, the Times of Israel published a follow-up article, in which Morad told the Times that his company had not published its results in peer-reviewed journals because it “can’t afford” to do so.

Morad also said that AEBi prefers to use its limited funds on research instead of publishing its research.  “It takes a lot of work and we are a small company,” he said. “Publishing an article takes a lot of effort and a lot of funds, and this we can’t afford. If we were a big company with a lot of funds that would be the first thing we would do. If I have $100,000 what do I spend it on? Advancing the research and finding more and more targeting peptides [short-protein molecules], or doing many experiments to write an article? What would you do, if you had to choose?”

(back to top)

The cost of publishing scientific research in a peer-reviewed journal

The cost for researchers to publish their results in peer-reviewed scientific journals depends on the journal.

  • Some journals are free, with no fee for publication. However, charges may occur for color figures or for a manuscript that exceeds the publisher’s word count or page limit.
     
  • Other journals do charge publication fees: 
    • Generally, these costs can vary between $200 to up to $5,000, depending on the journal and how the article is to be published (e.g., open access that is free to all readers versus traditional paid subscription access). 
       
  • Regardless of a given journal’s publication fees, most journals will wave these fees for a number of reasons, including financial hardship or the economic status of a researcher’s country of origin.

Currently, the Directory of Open Access Journals lists 710 journals under the category of “medicine”.  Of these, 468 do not charge for publication while 224 do charge a fee.

The assumption by ABEi’s principals that they would have to spend $100,000 to publish their results is grossly exaggerated and untrue. They have the option to request that the fee be waived due to financial hardship, or they could publish their results in a journal that charges no fee. 

It should also be noted that AEBi has already filed patents in the US on the both the technology they are using and the resulting peptides they are identifying. In 2019, the estimated total costs to file a patent in the US are about $900; however, costs to file a patent by a patent attorney can range from $5,000-10,000, mostly in attorney billing time. If AEBi has the financial resources to file patents, why are they claiming that they do not have the money to publish their results? 

What do the experts have to say?

ABEi’s claims are particularly frustrating to cancer experts. To them, it seems obvious that AEBi’s claim—a claim that inspires hope in patients and awe in researchers and oncologists—is not backed up by supporting evidence. 

  • Ben Neel, MD and director of Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU, told the NY Post that:

“cancer is multiple diseases, and it is highly unlikely that this company has found a ‘cure’ for cancer any more than there is a single cure for infections.” He said that “more likely, this claim is yet another in a long line of spurious, irresponsible and ultimately cruel false promises for cancer patients.”

“…it goes without saying, we all share the aspirational hope that they [AEBi] are correct. Unfortunately, we must be aware that this is far from proven as an effective treatment for people with cancer, let alone a cure."

The devil is in the details

The Jerusalem Post piece ends with the following:

“The company has concluded its first exploratory mice experiment, which inhibited human cancer cell growth and had no effect at all on healthy mice cells, in addition to several in-vitro [test tube] trials. AEBi is on the cusp of beginning a round of clinical trials which could be completed within a few years and would make the treatment available in specific cases.”

It is important to note that even if clinical trials were successful and approvals for the “cure” happened soon, these would be very unlikely to occur within a year.

The vast majority of successful experiments in mice do not translate to the same results in human beings.  According to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the odds of a new drug being tested in humans proving to be safe and effective enough for widespread use are 1 in 10, while analysis done by MIT economists puts the odds at 1 in 7. However, both groups agree that the chances of success for cancer drugs are far worse: 1 in 20, according to BIO, and 1 in 30 according to the MIT analysis.

Summary

When reading the Jerusalem Post article, resulting news and social media responses, keep in mind the following:

  • The Jerusalem Post article is a media report based on limited information provided to the Post by AEBi.
  • The research has not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  Until it is reviewed and the findings are validated by experts, the strength of these claims remains undefined.
  • Contrary to the claims of AEBi, cost rarely prevents publication of scientific findings in a peer-reviewed journal provided the findings have scientific merit.
  • The Jerusalem Post article is based on the results of experiments AEBi reports doing in mice.
    • The vast majority of successful experiments in mice do not result in new treatments for humans.
  • If AEBi is just beginning clinical trials, as it states, and if these trials are successful, it would likely take years before these drugs would be approved for widespread use.

Conclusion

Who does not hope that a cure for cancer can be found and found quickly? But, hope for a cure needs to be understood in the context of two important facts.  First, cancer is many diverse and complex diseases and a single cure for this complex set of diseases is incredibly unlikely. Second, decades of research have taught us that the time from successful experiments in mice to effective, beneficial treatments is, in fact, a long and difficult process with numerous scientific and regulatory hurdles.  It will likely take some time to prove the benefit, if any, of this newly reported approach to the treatment of cancer.

Share your thoughts on this XRAYS article by taking our brief survey.

Posted 2/12/19

References

Jaffe-Hoffman M. “A cure for cancer?  Israeli scientists may have found one.” Jerusalem Post. January, 28 2019.

Feuerherd, B.  “We’ll have a cure for cancer within a year, scientists claim.”  New York Post.  January 28.2019.

Solomon S.  “Cancer cure’ doubted as Israeli team claims it can’t afford to publish findings”. Israeli Times. January 30, 2019

Lichtenfeld, L.  “A Cure for Cancer? Not So Fast.” Dr. Lens’ Blog. American Cancer Society. January 29, 2019.

Biotechnology Industry Organization. “Clinical Development Success Rates 2006-2015.

Wong CH,  Siah KW,  Lo AW. “Estimation of clinical trial success rates and related parameters.”  Biostatistics. 2018

(back to top)

Back to XRAYS Home

Find older XRAYS studies and articles

By keyword search:

By date range:

FORCE:Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered