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89 MIN READ TIME

Brazilian Cancer Quackery

THE CURE FOR CANCER HAS BEEN FOUND YET AGAIN, this time in Brazil. And like many others before, it involves a desperate people, a populist government, and a scientifically illiterate society.

The story began 25 years ago, within the largest and most prestigious University in South America: University of São Paulo. In a small town called São Carlos, a full professor from the Institute of Chemistry, Gilberto Chierice, decided to play messiah. Convinced that he had found a cure for cancer in a molecule called phosphoethanolamine—phospho, as it became known, probably because not a single journalist could pronounce it correctly—he started to manufacture the compound at his laboratory at the university, and distribute it to the local population in the shape of blue and white miracle pills, with the promise to cure cancer.

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