Johnson & Johnson has received a lot of criticism lately because of the McNeil recalls of cold medicines, especially those for children. Factories must follow protocols which include sterility and proper oversights.
At the same time, J&J is getting a badly needed pick-me-up from its Veridex division. They are bringing to market a new cancer detection test that was developed at Massachusetts General Hospital and is now being studied there and at three other major cancer centers around the country.
The test utilizes a microchip that resembles a lab slide. It is covered with 78,000 tiny prongs, coated with antibodies that bind to tumor cells. The chip is slid into the bloodstream where more than a billion normal cells bounce off it for every cancer cell that sticks. Then it's examined for its genetic make-up.
The amazing finding here is that cancer cells circulate in the blood even when the actual tumor is to be found in a discrete location such as the breast, colon, kidney or skin. The test has enormous potential for assessing and modifying cancer treatment, and has already been studied in this regard with trials appearing in major journals.
The potential of the test may even go beyond treatment and onto early detection, since we are making cancer cells long before a tumor actually develops.
It is part of the range and success of a large company like J&J that at the same time that it is receiving a repeated black eye for McNeil, and also receiving accolades for Veridex. If only the news media reported both these stories accurately and evenly.
Marc Siegel, MD, is an internist and professor of medicine at New York University and the author of False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear