Briefing: Controversial ‘malarial therapy’ used in cancer trial sparks backlash

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An AIDS therapy involving parasite injections was discredited. China is reviving it — for cancer – STAT

What happened: A fringe treatment for AIDS and Lyme disease that involves infecting a patient with the malaria-causing parasite is now being tested in Chinese cancer patients. After a blog post by the Chinese Academy of Sciences detailing the purportedly positive results of preliminary trials went viral, over 10,000 patients signed up to participate in the next round of testing. But the scientific community has expressed concerns that the announcement was premature and only meant to generate hype.

Why it’s important: With China on the cusp of eradicating malaria, experts are worried about the risk involved in deliberately infecting patients with the disease. “Have they analyzed the risk of causing a malaria epidemic?” asked Zhai Xiaomei, executive director of the Center for Bioethics at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing. The news also highlights the need for stricter oversight to raise the safety threshold for cancer immunotherapy trials, especially following the lawsuit in September over a patient who died shortly after participating in a CAR-T cell therapy trial.