Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: Now, if it selectively kills cancer cells in a petri dish, you can be sure it's at least a great breakthrough for everyone suffering from petri dish cancer.
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is one of the most feared sicknesses due to high mortality and a topic visited by Randall in past comics
. Whenever a study finds a hint for cure, this is hyped in media as major breakthrough. However, on a laboratory scale, research is done using cultivated cancer cell assays in petri dishes or well plates. Because the cells are isolated, it will not take into consideration of interactions with other parts of a whole body. Current anti-cancer drugs affect all cells, thereby causing severe side effects. The same applies to new drugs developed as well; if they affect cancer cells they may also affect healthy cells and the side effects may prove to be too severe for the drug to be used as a viable treatment method. Randall compares this to a handgun, which can destroy cancer cells with the side effect of destroying tissue and body fluids in the proximity of the cells.
As title text suggests, that is not the only problem a new drug can have. For example, it may not be able to get to those cancer cells. It is a long way from the laboratory to the pharmacy.
When you see a claim that a common drug or vitamin "kills cancer cells in a petri dish",
keep in mind:
[A scientist stands on a chair next to a desk, pointing a gun at a petri dish. There is a microscope on the desk.]
So does a handgun.
add a comment!
One can test the cytotoxicity (the ability to kill cells) on a petri-dish level for cancer cells and healthy cells separately. However, this is often not done, knowingly neglecting selectivity issues one could face if the tests were done. This should be included in the explanation. The part that is written in the moment mainly explains the title text. 22.214.171.124 08:34, 27 May 2013 (UTC)
Sorry to correct you. Toxicity is tested for both, healthy cells an cancer cells. But as the targets for drugs are often present in both celltypes, the drug itself affect also both cells. Then you have to choose between certain death by cancer in short time and maybe death or side effects in the long row but survival. It's replacing one evil with another. Only very modern anticancer drugs (e.g. Gleevec) are selective enough to target (mostly) only cancer cells. The drawback is, as cancer in different people is not the same but different cells, you would need different drugs for everybodey affected. One way here lies in the personalized medicine, but that is very expensive...
126.96.36.199 10:05, 27 May 2013 (UTC)Richard
I've seen plenty of (academic, not industry) studies where tests on healthy cells were not done: The author present the synthesis of fancy new anti-cancer compounds XY, test it on HELA cells, see it is killing them, and publish this - even in high impact journals. This is a fact. 188.8.131.52 11:09, 27 May 2013 (UTC)
I am pretty sure this comic refers to the most recent overhyped headline of that type 'Vitamin C kills cancer cells'. Since it sounded like a natural remedy it was very widely spread, and widely misunderstood.184.108.40.206 11:38, 27 May 2013 (UTC)
Oxygen kills cancer cells! Under high enough temperatures it reacts with organic molecules in cancer cells, and produces CO2, H2O and some other stuff. --220.127.116.11 12:28, 27 May 2013 (UTC)
Read environmentalists-how-to-tell-the-bad-ones-from-the-good as analogous on how people commonly are unable to decipher scientific information. Spongebog (talk) 20:51, 27 May 2013 (UTC)
- Hey, that's "A Canadian-based monthly Christian magazine". Randall and me do not accept this!--Dgbrt (talk) 21:23, 27 May 2013 (UTC)
- Sure, we can just go with the Snopes  version instead ... Spongebog (talk) 21:31, 27 May 2013 (UTC)
- That April's fool is also a really old joke. "dihydrogen monoxide". H (hydrogen), two times - and O (oxygen) one time (mono...). My body and also yours too contains 60% of water. Any link to cancer? --Dgbrt (talk) 21:45, 27 May 2013 (UTC)
- They are both dangerous to your health Spongebog (talk) 03:18, 28 May 2013 (UTC)
Actually, oxygen is quite toxic to all cells, even though our cells will quickly die without it. A very large proportion of our physiological pathways are involved in the two tasks of (1) using oxygen to meet the energy needs of our cells while (2) protecting our cells from its toxicity. Outside our cells also, oxygen is both essential and dangerous: much of our technology would not work without oxygen from the air, but that same oxygen creates a fire hazard.
18.104.22.168 12:16, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
I think supplements i hate
this blog post is particularly relevant to this article --Guru-45
) 02:18, 9 September 2013 (UTC)