Claims of Colombia science minister to cure cancer with her innovative fungus drink leave scientists shell-shocked

  • Mabel Gisela Torres kicks off controversy after her unproven claim to cure cancer patients

  • Shocked WHO still silent, other scientists shocked at no clinical trials

  • Former biologist but a total stranger to the field of medicine

Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally which has caused over nine million deaths in 2018. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), one in 5 men and one in 6 women worldwide develop cancer during their lifetime, and one in 8 men and one in 11 women die from the disease.

But recently the first science minister of Colombia claimed that she has created a fungus extract drink which can treat cancer. After this unproven claim became public, it caused massive chaos which led to the resignation appeal to the minister.

Unproven claims by Mabel Gisela Torres

It was in 2019 December when Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez appointed molecular biologist Mabel Gisela Torres to be the first head of the newly created Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. Only a few nations knew who she was and Gustavo Quintero Hernández, the dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Del Rosario University mentioned her as a "total stranger," after she took over the newly formed ministry.

But at this current moment, she is one of the well-known and most debated person as Torres, who is an expert in fungi from the Technological University of El Chocó in Quibdó who used an extract from a member of the Ganoderma family of mushrooms to create a tea-like drink to treat 40 people with cancer.

It should be mentioned that the Colombian minister had published 21 scientific articles, largely on a type of mushroom used in traditional Chinese medicine and claimed to have created cancer remedy. But claiming that she found a cancer curing fungus extract made her receive calls to resign. She claimed that already 40 patients took the medicine and some of them went into remission after consuming the potion.

Mabel Gisela Torres
Mabel Gisela Torres Twitter grab/ @zabaleta23

Controversy over cancer treatment

After making such claims, the scientists asked her why she did not follow the widely considered steps to develop the medication. It was also revealed that her finding was not published in any peer-reviewed scientific journal. She neither offered a clinical trial for this cancer remedy nor consulted with an ethics committee, which caused fear that it was an unproven treatment method and that she might be putting the lives of her patients in danger.

But in an interview with Colombia's El Espectador newspaper, Torres defended treatment and said that some traditional treatments have a scientific basis, but the knowledge is not presented in the standard way. In addition, she mentioned that Ganoderma had previously passed toxicity tests in Asia more than 2,000 years ago.

As per Torres, she was looking for potential treatment and a male patient who took the potion was cancer-free after three months. But again, she could not provide any evidence to back her claims. She also compared the treatment with something as safe as having "mango juice at home."

Cancer treatment by Torres

During the interview, she was asked why did she give the patients medically unproven cancer treatment despite not carrying out pre-clinical or clinical studies, or publishing her findings. In response, she mentioned, "I wanted to do an act of rebellion and that is to say: I have the possibility to help people."

However, as per the new report by Nature, Torres would release her data, while the government confirmed that Torres would stay in office.

She said, "At no time have I simplistically proposed that this species [could] be the cure for cancer. I haven't offered a drug, let alone market it. I have rigorously observed the established ethical protocols for scientific experimentation in general and those that apply specifically in my disciplinary field."

Cancer Pixabay

Cancer treatment

The usual cancer treatment options include: