What set me off on this rant was the very first comment on the piece that posted on January 31st, “Looking Backward – And a Peek in the Other Direction.” Here’s the comment:
Hope you will comment on the news out of Israel this week:
Naturally, I looked, and what I found was an article from the Jerusalem Post, entitled “A Cure for Cancer? Israeli Scientists May Have Found One.” The article quotes Dan Aridor of Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd (AEBi) as follows:
“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 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. “
My immediate response was:
“I’ve never heard of that particular one, but a cure for every cancer is exceedingly unlikely. A tiny bit of digging came up with this, published in Forbes:
‘As someone with 10 years of molecular biology and medical experience, I strongly suspect the Israeli scientists…are completely misrepresenting their supposed discovery. But I want so, so badly for it to be true,’ said John Jiao. ‘To my knowledge, there has never been a single published paper which discovered any one protein (peptide) that exists in a large plurality of all cancers, let alone every single one. Of the common ones, they all exist in normal cells as well. So, the idea that these scientists have somehow, without anyone else developing anything remotely close, come up with a cancer cure-all that is not only totally effective but also has no side effects? This looks, sounds, smells and feels like snake oil.’
Sorry to be a wet blanket, but thanks for the well-meant hint.”
The snake-oil invective came from the person quoted in Forbes, not from your mild-mannered friend Doc Gumshoe. I would not go that far, at least not yet – not before attempting to figure out just what AEBi is trying to do and what they’ve got at this point.
To begin with, they call their treatment Mu Ta To, for multi-target toxin, and characterize it as a cancer antibiotic, “a disruption technology of the highest order.”
Aridor and their CEO, Dr Han Morad, go on as follows:
“The potentially game-changing anti-cancer drug is based on SoAP technology, which belongs to the phage display group of technologies. It involves the introduction of DNA coding for a protein, such as an antibody, into a bacteriophage – a virus that infects bacteria. That protein is then displayed on the surface of the phage. Researchers can use these protein-displaying phages to screen for interactions with other proteins, DNA sequences and small molecules.”
What exactly are SoAP technology and the phage display group of technologies?
Phage display is a well-established technique used to identify molecular entities that may have useful pharmacological activity. This method of quickly sorting through a large number of potential anti-cancer agents, screening them for specificity, selectivity, and potency, is currently a favored tool in the field of oncology.
As for SoAP technology, that seems to be what AEBi call their own method of using phage display. Here’s what they say about it on their website:
- “SoAP allows AEBi to develop drugs to many illnesses, among them cancer, and is expected to transform the drug discovery R & D phase by significantly reducing the attrition rate of new drug candidates.
- This breakthrough technology generates very specific lead compounds with greater functionality and improved pharmacological properties.
- Such lead compounds will allow more effective drugs and fewer side effects. The need for such technology is acute and pressing for many reasons.
- The sole external requirement in the screening process is a defined target (usually an illness-related protein).”
And that’s all! So, what we have so far is that AEBi has (perhaps!) an improvement, or at least a variation, on an established way of getting a quick reading on whether a particular molecule, usually a peptide, has potential cancer-attacking properties.
Using this screening technique, AEBi claims that it has put together a combination of cancer-targeting peptides plus a specific strong cancer toxin. In Dr Morad’s words:
“By using at least three targeting peptides on the same structure with a strong toxin, we made sure that the treatment will not be affected by mutations. Cancer cells can mutate in such a way that targeted receptors are dropped by the cancer. The probability of having multiple mutations that would modify all targeted receptors decreases dramatically with the number of targets used. Instead of attacking receptors one at a time, we attack receptors three at a time. Not even cancer can mutate three receptors at a time.”
This sounds reasonable enough when directed at a particular form of cancer. Three agents, each taking aim at a different receptor on the cancer cell, linked with a powerful chemotherapy agent of the old kind, a toxin, could certainly be effective against a specific cancer. But why would the agents that precisely target receptors on a lung cancer cell also work on different cancer cells? The toxin might work on a several different kinds of cancer – poison is poison. But cancer cells are all quite different, and targeted therapies work on only one fairly narrowly-defined type of cancer. So how in the world is that going to lead to “a complete cure for cancer”?
What else do we know?
Thus far, AEBi has tested their universal cancer drug on mice which have been inocul