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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)
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An Israeli company’s claims that they have a cure for cancer and that it will be available soon.
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:
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.”
While many news outlets covered the story and patients discussed it on social media, there is one glaring and critical problem:
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.
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).
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:
Until AEBi publishes its data, which would allow scientific experts to review and validate the results, their claims of a cure are unproven.
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?”
The cost for researchers to publish their results in peer-reviewed scientific journals depends on the journal.
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?
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.
“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 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.
When reading the Jerusalem Post article, resulting news and social media responses, keep in mind the following:
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.
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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
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