Prostate cancer

A few hours after I got up on Sunday I looked through the science and health news on which is very typical of me on a Sunday morning. Also typical is a story on how cancer is being deciphered one step at a time. Small steps, unfortunately.

The story that caught my eye yesterday morning related to prostate cancer and it hit my bullshit meter with a huge *clang* Here's the link to it if you're curious. The story was written by an AP (Associated Press) reporter. All I can say is that anytime you read a science story in the general press--beware!

Afterwards I looked to a website devoted to prostate cancer and that site had a press release from the University of California, San Francisco relating to this research which read quite differently.

If you got your information solely from the AP / CNN site you'd think the cure for cancer was at hand. And that the findings from this prostate cancer study was ground breaking. Well, it's anything but--as the press release from UCSF makes clear. Granted it's research that's helpful and very similar to what I do at UNC but not Earth shattering.

These researchers took samples of prostate cancer, ran them against established genes on a microarray that was stacked with cancer related oligonucleotides, and out popped some statistical data that implicated a virus to be involved in some way. Good clean science.

It's unfortunate but too often the media portray legitimate research findings in an exaggerated form so that the general public is misinformed. This only serves to desensitize people to the very real progress that is being made.

Here's a contrast in the two sources of information:


A new virus has been identified in human prostate tumors, but the virus's link to prostate cancer is unclear and requires more research, researchers say.

"This is a virus that has never been seen in humans before. This is consistent with previous epidemiologic and genetic research that has suggested that prostate cancer may result from chronic inflammation, perhaps as a response to infection," researcher Dr. Eric Klein, head of urologic oncology at the Cleveland Clinic's Glickman Urologic Institute, said in a prepared statement.


In a surprising discovery, researchers say they have found a virus in some prostate cancer patients, a finding that opens new research avenues in the most common major cancer among men in the United States.

"It is a very exciting discovery," said Dr. Eric Klein of the Cleveland Clinic, who will present the findings Friday at an American Society of Clinical Oncology prostate symposium in San Francisco. "There is now a suggestion that prostate cancer could be caused by an infectious disease."

Believe me, this sort of inflation of scientific findings in the general press isn't uncommon at all. I get phone calls from relatives and friends on a regular basis asking about some new incredible finding about cancer--only to find out that their source of info was CNN or maybe the morning news.

Reporters really should stick to stories about cats stuck in trees--something they can understand. LOL I bet Carmi (at Written, Inc) is going to chew my butt off over this. He's a very knowledgeable technology oriented reporter that often reads my posts. Sorry, Carmi--this doesn't apply to you!

Rant over. Back to regular programming...


debambam said…
News shows are the same the world over. Here in Aus we have a great little program called Media Watch. Its great at picking on anything that has dodgy sources, or is simply bullshit. Very interesting, I get the feeling you'd like it! (i'm not sure if I coded the link properly, i'll check when I publish this!)
Teresa said…
No comment... maybe later.
sophie said…
It seems they want the eye-catchiness more than the factualness in some cases (Carmi of course excluded). I think I just made up two words......
utenzi said…
I deeply admire your word generating abilities, Sophie.

Teresa, you always have some comment. What's up?!

Deb of Oz, I'll give that site a shot. Thanks!
netchick said…
OMG Dave, this rant hits close to home. It's stupid !@#)($&@ asshats like the very reporter you quoted that give my Dad the wrong idea about his illness. Hope is so important, but when it's dashed because the news story doesn't actually come to fruition, man, that is so much more damaging.

Thanks for posting this.
poopie said…
Off the wall question David. Chemo and cancer research are big business. Do you think that a "cure" might be by those who profit from the search for a cure? I'm not talkin' about you and your work personally...I'm talking about the pharamaceutical companies and others with a financial stake in the whole thing.
utenzi said…
Tanya, anything I can ever do for you--you're certainly welcome to.

Poopie, I'm not sure what you're saying from that way you stated your comment. My guess would be that you're insinuating that big companies have some inherient reason to keep cancer from being cured. To me that sounds stupid--but plenty of people say that. Of course plenty of people don't accept evolution. Go figure.

People with cancer die. You can't sell drugs to dead people. If you cure people of cancer they'll be buying drugs for decades more. Sure, while dying cancer victims buy some drugs but not many compared to what you buy for lifelong ailments like high blood pressure, high serum cholesterol or depression. Drug companies want people to live as long as possible so they'll keep buying drugs and old people buy the most. Cancer keeps you from getting old.
Wendy said…
Is it really news that a virus can cause cancer? I am taking Microbiology 101 and that seems like basic info.

I don't know what is worse, the media overexaggerating and putting their own little twist on things or lack of media in the science fields and therefor lack of any knowledge of how life works.
StanTheMan said…
Yes, people die of prostate caner, ever day. Cure for prostate cancer is, your PSA is less then 1 for seven(?) years. Why are some men told to watch and wait, age. To have your prostate removed, the cost is nerly $30,000. They what you to live about 15 more years.
If you are a man over the age of 50, and die of natural causes, every year the chance are greater that you well have cancer of the prostate when you die. The cancer might not do you in, but you well have it. A 70 year old man has a 70% chance of having cancer.
I am 63 and had mine removed last year. There are several sites for prostate cancer, all types of cures. I read them daily now.
utenzi said…
Wendy, it's been known for some time that certain viruses can affect the liklihood that a person will get cancer--or other diseases as well--that had previously been believed to be purely genetic in nature. The news isn't that it can occur, it's which virus affects which disease. Or more accurately which virus changes our DNA in a way that makes us succeptable to the disease later on.

Stan, you're quite right. Prostate in men and breast cancer in women are highly prevalent. If you live long enough, you're very likely to get the one that affects your gender. Few older males have no sign of prostate enlargement but fortunately it's usually a slow growing cancer.

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