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Scientists pour cold water on Israeli company’s cancer-cure claims

  • JTACancerCure
A team of scientists at a biotech company in Israel have claimed that they will have the elusive cure for cancer within a year, but scientists both locally and abroad remain critical and sceptical.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Feb 07, 2019

The company, Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd, or AEBi, which was founded in 2000 from the ITEK Weizmann technology incubator, announced recently that a new treatment being developed by the company would offer a complete cure for cancer. What’s more, it would have “none or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market”.

It sounds too good to be true, say some scientists, many of whom were quick to criticise the claims.

The treatment is said to work like a cancer antibiotic, according to scientists Dan Aridor, the Chairman of the board of AEBi, and Chief Executive Dr Ilan Morad. They call the treatment MuTaTo, or multi-target toxin, and they have been quoted in recent articles in Israel and the United States as saying that the results of pre-clinical trials have been very good.

Fellow scientists, however, quickly rejected these claims, calling them “spurious”, “highly irresponsible”, “unsubstantiated”, and even “cruel”, according to JTA.

So far, tests have been conducted only on mice, not on humans, although the scientists told the Jerusalem Post that their results were “consistent and repeatable”. The company told the Times of Israel that it planned to advance its research, and get to clinical trials as fast as possible.

Locally, scientists have reacted with caution, some refusing to comment until such time as thorough clinical trials had been conducted, and more research material is available.

The University of Cape Town’s Professor Musa Mhlanga, who works at the university’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and who is an expert in biomedical science, told the SA Jewish Report, “As a scientist, I am always initially sceptical. It is difficult to credibly understand the claims of AEBi without them providing peer-reviewed data published in a reputable journal. Barring that, these claims are simply that, claims that still need to pass the litmus test of the scientific and medical community. Once that has happened, much more can be said.”

Abroad, sceptical scientists have also noted that the research group has not published any findings to back up its claims.

Morad told the Times of Israel the company had not published its research in medical journals because it “couldn’t afford” to do so. The company later explained that it was also due to the fact that it was privately-owned, and was still in the process of generating a final patent.

Health specialist Professor Michael Herbst of the Cancer Association of South Africa is also doubtful. Logistically, he said, it appeared to be totally unrealistic.

“The company says that a biopsy specimen of each patient will have to be forwarded to the laboratory so that individualised treatment can be prepared for each patient. According to the World Health Organization, just more than 18 million individuals worldwide were diagnosed with cancer during 2018. Imagine the size of a laboratory that will have to handle 18 million biopsy specimens and prepare individualised medicine for each patient. Unbelievable!”

He questioned where the infrastructure would come from, and who would man the laboratories, manufacturing processes, and distribution.

“Where will their funding come from? They said that they could not publish any papers covering their research because they didn’t have the necessary funding. Where will their funding come from for such a major project?

“The sad side is that individuals diagnosed with cancer are, again, exposed to news which creates expectations. Imagine the disappointment when this does not materialise. We have seen this happen before,” said Herbst.

Victoria Forster, a cancer researcher and child cancer survivor who writes for Forbes, called AEBi less than forthcoming with information about its alleged cure.

She also said that the claim that one cure will work for all of the more than 200 different types of cancer out there was a “huge red flag”. Such a claim was “highly unlikely”.

Meanwhile, Israeli scientists are experimenting with immunotherapy, which manipulates one’s immune system to identify, fight, and destroy cancer cells.

While immunotherapy has been around for many years, new advances in the field coupled with recent drug approvals have intensified interest in it and its application for cancer treatment, especially late-stage cancers that resist conventional treatments. Immunotherapy drugs are already helping patients with melanoma, lung, stomach, liver, and bladder cancers, as well as some blood cancers.

Dr Mark Israel, the National Executive Director of the Israel Cancer Research Fund, told JTA, “Recent developments in immunotherapy have ushered in a medical revolution, representing a real paradigm shift in cancer treatment.

“Cancer immunotherapy is exciting because, as opposed to other forms of therapy, it engages the body’s own highly sensitive system for detecting cancer cells and destroying them. This area will have a major impact on cancer outcomes going forward.”

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