Broad, potentially misleading statements in story by Medical Xpress paint an attractive picture of a new cancer treatment that has yet to be tested in humans
Note: The interpretations and reviews of the original news story according to the SciFeye Index differ substantially between the two independent reviewers. Therefore, we encourage you to read the original news story and with the help of the SciFeye Index, come to your own conclusions on the validity of the claims made.
This article written by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research does a satisfactory job in reviewing recent research findings on a new class of anti-cancer drugs: histone acetylase inhibitors. Published August of 2018 in the journal Nature, Jonathan Bael and colleagues use high-throughput screening, medicinal chemistry optimization, in-cell assays and other biochemical analyses to develop a new class of anti-tumour drugs and examine its effects in tumour models.
Epigenetics is the study of modification to gene expression without modifying the genetic code. Acetylation of histones, a type of epigenetic modification, is known to play an important role in driving certain types of cancer. While traditional chemotherapeutic drugs target cancerous cells by directly damaging their DNA, they also damage healthy cells which gives rise to adverse side effects such as hair loss. Because histone acetylase inhibitors only prevent histone acetylation (and do not change/damage DNA), they are hypothesized to lack the same adverse effects that conventional therapies may bring.
There are many positive aspects of this article which help improve the quality of the review. First, this review does an effective job in simplifying and providing the reader background knowledge needed to understand the science behind this new class of drugs—this is seen in the introductory paragraphs explaining the role of conventional cancer treatments, epigenetics and cellular senescence. The use of direct quotes from the author is sometimes excessive, however is overall beneficial and helps maintain integrity of the researchers’ perspectives. This review further maintains objectiveness in the third person and is void of known conflicts of interest.
One major setback to this review is that it sometimes fails to elaborate on points of emphasis seen in the original research paper. For example, the original research contains details surrounding the use of model systems. While models are mentioned in the review article through direct quotes from the researchers, the lack of emphasis and elaboration leaves room for misinterpretation—especially for those who may not know what “pre-clinical trials” means (this term may be misinterpreted as “human trials”). In addition, emphasizing and bolding statements like “undrugabble no more”, “no more DNA damage”, and “permanent sleep” may provoke thoughts that this is the safest, best, and most effective treatment for cancer (despite the fact that it hasn’t been tested in humans yet). To increase clarity for the lay audience, it may have been beneficial to include that only cell cultures, mice and zebrafish were tested.
Furthermore, this article contains minor faults that add up and further reduce the overall quality of the review. First, the article contains an abundance of advertisements—one ad is even placed in the center of the review and the content of the article surrounds it. In addition, a large image showing Killer T-cells surrounding a cancer cell is placed at the beginning of the review. While this colourful image may be visually appealing, using T-cells to target cancer is a completely different type of cancer therapy (immunotherapy) and is irrelevant to either article. Furthermore, a list of references is not provided and specific claims such as “KAT6A sits at number 12 on the list of genes most commonly amplified in cancers” cannot not be verified.
Overall, this article provides a satisfactory review on the new research on histone acetylase inhibitors, using direct quotes from researchers effectively and providing adequate summaries; however, adjustments to reduce unintentional misdirection and other minor faults can be made to improve the overall quality of the review.
The treatment of cancer through pharmaceuticals has been a long-studied field of interest. This article highlights a primary class of anti-cancer drugs that function by arresting activation of the cell cycle in cancer cells through the inhibition of the histone acetyltransferases KAT6A and KAT6B. It was reported that this class of drugs has shown promise in treating cancers through the process of cell senescence.
This article, written by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, does an excellent job at highlighting what is known regarding the pharmaceutical effect of this class of drugs on cancer cells. This information is heavily authenticated through direct description and discussion of results from leading experts and researchers in the field of cancer therapeutics – albeit, sometimes in an excessive amount. Notably, there are no other independent sources to further supplement the information provided. As a result, some of these claims cannot be verified without additional references, which reduces the validity of the review article itself. Overall, the article from MedicalXpress uses an appropriate vernacular while sustaining an overarchingly neutral stance. This makes the contents of the article easily accessible for the target audience.
It is worthwhile to note that the title of the text can be considered clickbait as the contents of the article have a direct conflict with the title in saying that “there is still a lot of work to be done to get to a point where this drug class could be investigated in human cancer patients.” The title, while attractive at bringing in an audience, may mislead the reader by sharing the finding of a definite ‘cure,’ or safest method of treatment for cancer. Additionally, the author uses bolded/highlighted subtitles for dramatic effect which consistently overstate the implications of the research and confuse the intent of the article.
Overall, several minor faults equate to a lesser impact of this new research and thus, this article provides a reasonable, but not impeccable, summary of this publication.
The views expressed by the reviewers for this article are not endorsed or shared by SciFeye. The interpretation of the review of the news story using the SciFeye Index was done independently by two SciFeye reviewers. We encourage you to conduct your own evaluation of the accuracy and quality of the news story using the Index.