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Weizmann Institute hits out at British media over lack of credit for cancer breakthrough

Avigdor Scherz and Professor Yoram Salomon
Avigdor Scherz and Professor Yoram Salomon (Weizmann )

The Weizmann Institute of Science has criticised the UK media after several reports – including on the BBC News at 10 – attributed its pioneering prostate cancer treatment to a London university and made no mention of the Israeli research centre.  

The therapy, which involves directing a laser at a tumour after the ingestion of a drug, and has been shown to be far more effective than current treatments, was developed over a 15-year period by Weizmann scientists Avigdor Scherz and Yoram Salomon.

Sheridan Gould, Executive Director of Weizmann UK, said: “We were naturally disappointed that the media coverage of, game-changing treatment for prostate cancer managed to avoid any reference to Israeli scientists fundamental role in this breakthrough treatment.”

 

 

BBC News at 10 reported that the technique had been developed by “researchers from University College London” while the BBC’s online report only mentioned the Weizmann Institute at the bottom of the article.

The Guardian attributed the discovery to UCL and failed entirely to mention Weizmann.

The treatment, known as “vascular targeted photodynamic therapy”, involves targeting tumours with a laser which activates a light-sensitive chemical that breaks down the cancerous growth.

Nearly half of the 413 men who took part in a trial had no remaining trace of cancer after being treated.

The new therapy uses a drug developed from deep-sea bacteria which usually live in total darkness but become toxic when exposed to natural light.  The drug was named “Tookad” by the Weizmann scientists, which means “light” in Hebrew.

Fibre optic lasers are inserted into the cancerous prostate gland before the laser is switched on, activating the drug and killing the cancerous cells, leaving the prostate intact.

In the trial - at 47 hospitals across Europe - 49 per cent of patients went into complete remission, compared with 30 per cent of patients that did not have the new therapy.

Crucially, the new treatment appears to lack the side-effects of chemotherapy, which include having a weak bladder and erectile dysfunction.

According to Cancer Research UK, one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. In 2014, there were 11,287 deaths from the condition, which is the second most common cancer in the UK.

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