According to the National Cancer Institute, Brazil will have 1.2 million new cancer cases between 2018 and 2019. This year alone 582,000 new cases are expected. The illness is responsible for millions of deaths worldwide; the annual mortality rate is of 8.8 million people, according to the World Health Organization. It is the world’s (and Brazil’s) second leading cause of death. A disease as deadly as this has the power to scare people. And when fear of death is in any equation, rationality seems to fade away.
This is especially true in a country where healthcare has been a struggle for decades. Millions of Brazilians still don’t have access to proper treatment for many diseases and the public health system is poorly funded. Research is rare and also lacks funds to fully develop in many areas – oncology included. That is why the story of a miraculous “cancer pill” sounds so odd.
It is still unclear when and where the story really began. What we do know is that Gilberto Chierice, a former University of São Paulo professor, is at the center of this controversy. He and some colleagues claimed that a substance called phosphoethanolamine could cure cancer. Research had been conducted for more than 20 years, he said, and trials were held in serious institutes – who denied this.