Time Magazine’s April Fools Joke

Here’s the most recent cover of the magazine that Rob Bell calls “a mainstream, credible magazine,” and thus a periodical of record for science journalism:

Seth Mnookin, co-director of MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing, is not impressed:

Which, of course, is completely, utterly, inarguably false. The roughly 580,000 Americans who will die this year from cancer know the reality all too well. For some context, that’s more people than will die from chronic lower respiratory diseases, strokes, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes combined.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been major advances in treating some types of cancer, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children, testicular cancer in men, and early-stage breast cancer in women. On the whole, however, our ability to treat solid tumors in late-stage disease remains, in the words of Nita Maihle, the director of Yale’s Biology of Reproductive Tract Cancers Program, “abysmal.”

Mnookin goes on to explain how this particular stunt has been done before, but that this is a particularly egregious example. This headline is misleading, wrong and cruel.

  • http://misoriented.blogspot.com Mike Blyth

    So what’s the complaint that qualifies this headline as April Fools and as being “misleading, wrong and cruel”? Does it say “all cancer at every stage can be cured”? Do you really think people are so uninformed that they will interpret it that way? As progress is made in small increments and more kinds of cancers can be cured, put into prolonged remission, etc., do we have to write a headline, “How to Cure Cancer (**Note this applies to certain cancer and does not apply to all solid tumors in late-stage disease so don’t get your hopes up **)”?

    • Michael

      The fact that the progress is gradual and incomplete is sort of the point. The headline is totally inappropriate. I think it’s pretty clear what people mean when they say a “cure for cancer,” and we don’t have that. Beyond that, there was no particular breakthrough recently to merit such a story. It’s just an article about the slow progress we’ve been making for decades. If the headline had been something like “Winning the War on Cancer,” it would be ok.

      Oh, and they did have an asterisk. An asterisk that reemphasized that it is indeed now possible to cure cancer (“now”, as opposed to previously, implying there was some new breakthrough cancer cure). This is how they sell magazines now–by lying on the front cover.

  • Revyloution

    “Do you really think people are so uninformed that they will interpret it that way?”

    Short answer? Yes. I still run into people who think that cold fusion is real.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Tortue du Désert avec un Coupe-Boulon

    Every time I see that gentleman’s name I want to say “Moonkin”

  • http://Takelunasin.com Stephanie

    Educate yourself! The article is right. Epigenetics is the key. The Drug companies are playing catch up to the food scientists and are trying to keep it hush hush until they can find a way to call it a drug. There is plenty of info on Pubmed.gov and Lunasin.com ….just search cancer and lunasin. Lunasin is a peptide that has been studied for 15 years and finally on the market. I know because I have worked for the company for 20 years. Educate yourself consumers, Takelunasin.com will explain epigenetics and lunasin. There are plenty of cancer doctors well aware of what this does to cancer cells. Look at the science, the govt is making sure no claims can get out until they somehow make it a drug.

    • Yoav

      Despite of what you try to insinuate the connection between gene expression regulation, via different mechanisms including chromatin modification, is studied intensively for decades. I had a look at the papers they list (I just looked at the abstract not read the full text) and it seem that they all describe a rather common effect of a molecule that can affect the levels of some genes and may have some pro-apoptotic effect on cultured cells, there is a very large leap from that to claim that this molecule would be an effective treatment for cancer which would be dependent on the pharmacokinetics of getting to the tumor as well as other factors such as the effective concentration and the level of effect on cancer cells compared to non-cancer cells.
      The way they describe epigenetics is at best oversimplified and at worst misleading, there is a lot more to epigenetic regulation of gene expression then acetylation and indiscriminate hyperacetylation can actually be a worse outcome since the proper activation and silencing of genes is essential for proper function. The positive charge of amino acids in histones is actually neutralized by the negative charge of the DNA wrapped around the nucleosome so the claim that just because a peptide is negatively charged, not an uncommon property by any means, it will bind to histones and somehow prevent acetylation is not supported even by their own papers that indicate a much more likely mechanism of inhibiting some signaling pathways and possibly specific histone acetyl transferase, all of which in-vitro and at least in one case with p-values that are normally considered insignificant.
      All in all even your own website fail to support your assertion of a magic drugs suppressed by the evil drug companies and the gobmint.