I’ve been following the ongoing dialogue between Dr Henry Lowe and Dr William Aiken with much interest. The Jamaica Urological Society urged caution. Correctly so. Prostate cancer, a deadly disease, is of high prevalence in Jamaica. Ironically, if one were to read the details of the responses, there really isn’t much disagreement.
The real problem arose from the sensational headline your paper used to report the launch of Dr Lowe’s Biomed R and D facility, and the announcement of his new product, Alpha Prostate Formula, developed from years of studying the local ball moss plant which appears to contain anti-cancerous properties. The headline “Jamaican scientist makes prostate cancer breakthrough – Dr Henry Lowe unveils formula that can eliminate deadly disease” was indeed misleading. It implied that the Jamaican scientist had miraculously found a cure.
I recall the morning the article was published receiving an email from a colleague who sent the link to the article to several individuals in the USA and Canada, with the subject “Breaking news”. I read it and immediately responded that we have to be cautious when reading seemingly sensational headlines. The content of the article didn’t exactly suggest a cure. What it gave was hope, with the potential for more effective treatment. It also highlighted the work being done by a fellow Jamaican scientist who has dedicated much time, effort and resources to studying these properties.
So the media must be more careful when they report. Strangely, this news story was not carried in any of the international media I checked. In fact, it wasn’t even carried in the other local newspaper, until much later when reports on the new facility surfaced in bits and pieces.
I don’t believe Dr Aiken and JUS meant any harm through their response. Science is always based on cautious optimism. At the same time, it’s great to hear of Jamaican scientists doing such intense work. They should be encouraged to further the study of local indigenous plants, which for years have been used by many Jamaicans to treat all types of illnesses.
Herbal medicine as alternative treatment is certainly not new. If there is some hope with the moss plant being used to treat cancer, we shouldn’t waste any time exploring the prospects. If it can contain or eliminate the disease or prolong life, then there is much hope. These natural products are often far less harmful than many of the chemical compounds used in pharmaceutical drugs which take years to develop and test, and require clearing many hurdles of bureacracy before they can actually be approved for use. If we can successfully apply science to nature, greater possibilities exist.