Cancer Research Publications Riddled With False Claims

by Wellness Warrior on April 4, 2012

committee of the National Academy of Sciences heard testimony about the tenfold increase during the last decade, in the number of scientific journal articles that had to be retracted.

But that number may obscure the far greater number of unsupportable published reports in so-called peer reviewed academic journals that are never retracted.

A report in NATURE, by Glenn Begley (former head of cancer research at Amgen) and Lee Ellis (surgical oncologist at MD Anderson), Drug development: Raise standards for preclinical cancer research describes the effort of 100 Amgen scientists to replicate the results claimed by the authors of 53 widely cited landmark cancer research papers.

The Amgen scientists were astonished to find that they were able to replicate only 6 (11%) of the 53 published conclusions.

“It was shocking,” said Begley, now senior vice president of privately held biotechnology company TetraLogic, which develops cancer drugs. “These are the studies the pharmaceutical industry relies on to identify new targets for drug development. But if you’re going to place a $1 million or $2 million or $5 million bet on an observation, you need to be sure it’s true. As we tried to reproduce these papers we became convinced you can’t take anything at face value.”

So, it is cancer research academics–not industry scientists–who are responsible for polluting the scientific literature with false “positive” claimed findings. Indeed, even when the academic got the result he published only once–after attempting, but failing, six times to replicate his own finding–he nevertheless submitted his unsupportable finding for publication.

Some authors required the Amgen scientists sign a confidentiality agreement barring them from disclosing data at odds with the original findings. “The world will never know” which 47 studies — many of them highly cited — are apparently wrong, Begley said. Such a legal shield protects fraud and fraudsters.

Last year, Bayer scientists reported similar findings…

A scientist at the University of Nova Scotia who had worked at Merck, is quoted stating:
“It drives people in industry crazy. Why are we seeing a collapse of the pharma and biotech industries? One possibility is that academia is not providing accurate findings.”

Ferric Fang of the University of Washington, who addressed the NAS panel, said he blamed a hypercompetitive academic environment that fosters poor science and even fraud, as too many researchers compete for diminishing funding.

“The surest ticket to getting a grant or job is getting published in a high-profile journal,” said Fang. “This is an unhealthy belief that can lead a scientist to engage in sensationalism and sometimes even dishonest behavior.”

The Amgen authors of the Nature article who could replicate the findings of only 6 o the 53 published reports indicate that some authors of the dubious published reports required them to sign a confidentiality agreement barring them from disclosing data at odds with the original published findings. Thus, Glenn Begley stated: “The world will never know” which 47 studies — many of them highly cited — are apparently wrong.

How can one justify a public expenditure of more than $4.9 billion annually for cancer research whose integrity cannot be relied upn?

An excellent review by Sharon Begley (Reuters) :  In Cancer Science, Many “Discoveries” Don’t Hold Up 

Vera Sharav

Alliance for Human Research Protection (AHRP)
Advancing Honest and Ethical Medical Research


Of 47 cancer projects at Bayer during 2011, less than one-quarter could reproduce previously reported findings, despite the efforts of three or four scientists working full time for up to a year. Bayer dropped the projects.


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