Cancer Research Fraud Endemic

Cancer Research False Claims by Vera Sharav

A 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.

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

Full article at http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/839/150/

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