Video: This video explains why we’re always hearing about promising treatments — for cancer, say — despite very few of those breakthroughs ever showing up in the clinic. The reason isn’t a Big Pharma conspiracy or incompetent doctors. It’s because lab findings rarely survive real-world tests. In the video, Jonathan Jarry of the Body of Evidence podcast uses marbles as a stand-in for studies with positive results. Plenty of drugs work in vitro, which means “in glass”. That means lab work with cells and chemicals, for example in test tubes. But only a few of the treatments that work in the lab can also work safely in animals. And only a few of those make it through the three rounds of clinical trials that test whether drugs are safe and effective in real patients with real diseases.
Some findings are so exciting that they make the news even when they’re from in vitro studies, or mouse studies, setting us up for disappointment when the magic pill never materialises. And some people eager to sell supplements or talk up superfoods will cite sketchy, early studies on their product to convince you to take it right now. Jarry puts it more bluntly, saying “quacks bypass due process to sell you duds.”
Gauntlet [The Body of Evidence]