Prostate cancer can be a killer. if you have the advanced form of the disease you could be dead within a year. No wonder everybody in men's health and cancer is so excited about abiraterone - a drug that appears to have achieved spectacular results.
"Within three months I have had men stop their morphine and say I'm going to see my daughter living in Australia," said lead researcher Dr Johann de Bono. But should we get this excited about a drug that at this stage has only been tested conclusively on 21 men, none of whom have taken it for more than two and half a years. Larger trials are going on but they haven't reported yet and even if everything goes swimmingly, the drug won't be on the market before 2011.
I think the media have jumped the gun here and the reason is the myth of the magic bullet. One of the great attractions of drug breakthrough stories is that they seem to offer a super cure from science fiction. But there is no magic bullet for health - it's always a question of balancing a number of factors and that's far more difficult to write about in a headline-grabbing way. The rest of us need to understand the media's shortcomings or we are we going to be frustrated by false hopes time and again.
Among other recent cancer research, there was another small study - 22 volunteers this time - which the media didn't report suggesting that eating a portion of broccoli a week might interfere with the development of prostate cancer. No false hope there. Broccoli is available now not 2011.