Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo in medicine.
Why haven’t we cured cancer yet? (Revisited): Personalized medicine versus evolution (David Gorski) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/personalized-medicine-vs-evolution/ Genomic research underscores that cancer is not one disease, but a diverse and complex mixture. The process of evolution continually changes the original genetic identity of a tumor into a mixture with multiple different gene expressions. Designing personalized cancer treatments will be far more difficult than we imagined; but there is real hope for progress based on science, as contrasted with the spurious “personalized medicine” offered by alternative medicine providers.
Update: Homeopathy in Brazilian Scientific American (Harriet Hall) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/update-homeopathy-in-brazilian-scientific-american/ Since last week’s criticism of a pro-homeopathy article in Scientific American Brasil there have been gratifying new developments. The editor of the original Scientific American, Mariette DiChristina, spoke out strongly against the homeopathy article, saying it never should have been published and setting an example of integrity for other editors of scientific journals to follow. Many others complained, and the Brazilian editor issued an apology.
Herbal Medicine and Aristolochic Acid Nephropathy (Steven Novella)http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/herbal-medicine-and-aristolochic-acid-nephropathy/ A toxic Chinese herb has caused many cases of kidney failure and urinary tract cancers, and consumers have continued to use it even after it was officially banned. A good example of why “natural” doesn’t mean “safe,” how “ancient wisdom” and centuries of use can fail to recognize a deadly side effect, and why the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) designation isn’t necessarily trustworthy.
Systemic Enzyme Therapy (Scott Gavura)http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/systemic-enzyme-therapy/ Simple solutions to complex problems are likely to be wrong. Orally consumed enzymes are marketed with promises they can’t keep. They are not well absorbed, are destroyed by the digestive process, and even the rationale for using them is suspect.
Low-Back Pain: Causes, Care, and Consequences (Sam Homola) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/low-back-pain-causes-care-and-consequences/ Low back pain is a common problem. This article covers its diagnosis and treatment, red flags to watch out for, and self-treatment measures. It offers accurate information and advice to counter the misinformation and spurious promises of quick cures from alternative medicine practitioners.