The “not so smart bomb” for prostate cancer

An article developed by HealthDay for U.S. News & World Report carries the headline “A ‘Smart Bomb’ for Prostate Cancer?” The question mark at the end was a good idea, because it is clear to even a half-awake reader that the supposed smart bomb isn’t so smart at all.

In the actual article, which is based on a media release from the American Association for Cancer Research, one of the researchers involved is quoted as saying, “It’s like a smart bomb, to use a military analogy. By retooling chemotherapy agents, we may be able to get more accurate treatment monitoring and follow-up.” Apparently this researcher and his colleagues have been able to shrink prostate cancer cells in mice using a drug delivery method that combines imaging agents with chemotherapy into one or other of two drugs that might be usable to exclusively target prostate cancer cells.

However, quite apart from the fact that this technique has only been used in mice, apparently it is not prostate cancer-specific either (at least, not yet). “Unfortunately, next to clear [prostate cancer] tumor uptake, there was also uptake into liver and kidney organs,” the researcher is supposed to have said. “Further experiments will have to address that problem.”

Hmmm … That does sound like a problem. The liver and the kidneys are among the more sensitive and essential of human organs!

So what we seem to have here is hype for its own sake. The drug delivery system has only been used in mice. It’s not prostate cancer-specific (implying that it could have severe adverse impact on other organs). And even in the mice, all that it has been shown to do is induce a “measurable reduction” in the size of prostate cancer cells. Doesn’t 5α-reductase inhibitor therapy or hormone therapy do that already?

When one considers the fuss people in academia make about the over-promotion of drugs and medical devices to consumers, one wonders who is responsible for oversight of the over-promotion of academic research data to the media!

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