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In cancer science, many 'discoveries' don't hold up
Reuters ^ | Wed, Mar 28, 2012 2:09pm EDT | Sharon Begley

Posted on 04/01/2012 11:11:56 AM PDT by Olog-hai

A former researcher at Amgen Inc has found that many basic studies on cancer—a high proportion of them from university labs—are unreliable, with grim consequences for producing new medicines in the future.

During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 "landmark" publications—papers in top journals, from reputable labs—for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.

Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated. He described his findings in a commentary piece published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"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."

The failure to win "the war on cancer" has been blamed on many factors, from the use of mouse models that are irrelevant to human cancers to risk-averse funding agencies. But recently a new culprit has emerged: too many basic scientific discoveries, done in animals or cells growing in lab dishes and meant to show the way to a new drug, are wrong. …

(Excerpt) Read more at reuters.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Health/Medicine; Science; Society
KEYWORDS: cancer; cancerresearch; extendednews; fraudresearch; laboratories; quackery; university
Last third of the article elaborates on the corruption. It's a disgrace.
Other scientists worry that something less innocuous explains the lack of reproducibility.

Part way through his project to reproduce promising studies, Begley met for breakfast at a cancer conference with the lead scientist of one of the problematic studies.

"We went through the paper line by line, figure by figure," said Begley. "I explained that we re-did their experiment 50 times and never got their result. He said they'd done it six times and got this result once, but put it in the paper because it made the best story. It's very disillusioning."

Such selective publication is just one reason the scientific literature is peppered with incorrect results.

For one thing, basic science studies are rarely "blinded" the way clinical trials are. That is, researchers know which cell line or mouse got a treatment or had cancer. That can be a problem when data are subject to interpretation, as a researcher who is intellectually invested in a theory is more likely to interpret ambiguous evidence in its favor.

The problem goes beyond cancer.

On Tuesday, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences heard testimony that the number of scientific papers that had to be retracted increased more than tenfold over the last decade; the number of journal articles published rose only 44 percent.

Ferric Fang of the University of Washington, speaking to the 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 academic reward system discourages efforts to ensure a finding was not a fluke. Nor is there an incentive to verify someone else's discovery. As recently as the late 1990s, most potential cancer-drug targets were backed by 100 to 200 publications. Now each may have fewer than half a dozen.

"If you can write it up and get it published, you're not even thinking of reproducibility," said Ken Kaitin, director of the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. "You make an observation and move on. There is no incentive to find out it was wrong."

1 posted on 04/01/2012 11:11:59 AM PDT by Olog-hai
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To: Olog-hai

Unfortunately, between the given utilitarian ethics and the need to publish, too many scientists have forgotten that one of the hallmarks of science is reproducibility.


2 posted on 04/01/2012 11:15:50 AM PDT by hocndoc (WingRight.org: Have mustard seed & I'm not afraid to use it. 2 men inherited a Bush economy.)
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To: Olog-hai
NEW SCIENTIST: Most Scientific Papers are Probably Wrong, by Kurt Kleiner
3 posted on 04/01/2012 11:17:20 AM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Government is the religion of the sociopath.)
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To: hocndoc

Without reproducibility, it’s no longer science. It’s automatically fraudulent. And what’s disgusting is how people’s lives and hopes are being played with in this manner.


4 posted on 04/01/2012 11:20:16 AM PDT by Olog-hai
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To: E. Pluribus Unum
The academic publication game that budding academic scientists and engineers have to play has probably done more to retard science then help it.
5 posted on 04/01/2012 11:23:24 AM PDT by Reily
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

This is what gave the GLobull Warming crowd the confidence to overplay their hand. I suspect a similar degree of fraud pervades the HIV/AIDS research...


6 posted on 04/01/2012 11:25:30 AM PDT by mo (If you understand, no explanation is needed. If you don't understand, no explanation is possible.)
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To: Olog-hai

What we are witnessing, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the decline and perhaps fall of Western Medicine. The rot has set in fueled by the grant system.


7 posted on 04/01/2012 11:31:17 AM PDT by Citizen Tom Paine (An old sailor sends)
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To: Olog-hai

...too many basic scientific discoveries, done in animals or cells growing in lab dishes and meant to show the way to a new drug, are wrong. …

My wife works in a science lab doing this type of research. I am told nightly of the abuses of the scientific method.

The people doing the research are trying to do a job, get a raise, and get promoted. Many don’t care about the science.


8 posted on 04/01/2012 11:31:38 AM PDT by nixonsnose (Let's see all you lawyers argue your way out of hell.)
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To: Olog-hai

Not just cancer research, I suspect.


9 posted on 04/01/2012 11:35:13 AM PDT by Brilliant
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To: Olog-hai

I agree.
And as I said, at the same time that researchers aren’t being held to the standard of reproducibility, utilitarian ethics have become the norm. How do we retrain our researchers if we are teaching and demonstrating a lack of right and wrong?


10 posted on 04/01/2012 11:35:18 AM PDT by hocndoc (WingRight.org: Have mustard seed & I'm not afraid to use it. 2 men inherited a Bush economy.)
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RESPONSE TO POSTS 1-8

It’s all about the money.


11 posted on 04/01/2012 11:37:29 AM PDT by UCANSEE2 (Lame and ill-informed post)
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To: Citizen Tom Paine

Oh, I don’t know. From time to time every field needs a good housecleaning. The hard sciences are getting theirs and I think it will most likely be good in the long run.


12 posted on 04/01/2012 11:41:42 AM PDT by Ramius (Personally, I give us one chance in three. More tea anyone?)
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To: hocndoc
How do we retrain our researchers if we are teaching and demonstrating a lack of right and wrong?

Change the tricks they have to do to get a treat.

13 posted on 04/01/2012 11:43:05 AM PDT by UCANSEE2 (Lame and ill-informed post)
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To: Olog-hai

All you need to know about cancer research, and why I discourage all from giving a cent to cancer research.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuESsEZ2kH0

You’ll never look at the cancer industry the same way again.


14 posted on 04/01/2012 11:53:54 AM PDT by cuban leaf (Were doomed! Details at eleven.)
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To: UCANSEE2

That won’t instill morals or scientific discipline. It’ll merely make them look for new tricks themselves.


15 posted on 04/01/2012 11:56:04 AM PDT by Olog-hai
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To: Olog-hai
Academic science, especially university-based science, is unquestionably broken in so many, many ways. Peer review is often having your friends and people you've networked with reviewing your papers. Editors have a lower bar for things coming from ‘name’ labs, and many times the principle investigators of those labs became ‘names’ because they overstated their results and developed a network of supporters to help them get their stuff in higher profile journals.

It would be, in my opinion, surprising if even 50% of published research was either correct or reproducible.

This is not to say we shouldn't be funding research in this country. It is to say, however, that things need to change, a lot. The global warming elite are a perfect example of how mafia’s form in science.

16 posted on 04/01/2012 12:02:44 PM PDT by pieceofthepuzzle
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To: Olog-hai

“Without reproducibility, it’s no longer science. It’s automatically fraudulent. And what’s disgusting is how people’s lives and hopes are being played with in this manner.”

Not to mention the fact that it is taxpayer money that is paying for this.


17 posted on 04/01/2012 12:07:19 PM PDT by pieceofthepuzzle
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To: Olog-hai
This is not surprising. Though not a credentialed member of the faculty, I was once employed by a major university. In my position as the assistant director of an on campus program, I interacted with professors, instructors and a whole range of teachers.

Though I met some truly great people--great human beings--I also met educators whom I considered at the bottom of the food chain. Their whole lives were devoted to getting published--in a publish or perish milieu--and they didn't care at all about other people. And students? Students were the scum of the earth--subhumans who interrupted their research and copyreading with phone calls and questions.

I don't know personally of any fraudulent research carried on at the school, but I did sit in on meetings and luncheons and other functions in which there was sometimes great levity. In the subtext of the conversations and discussions, one could wonder whether or not if grants and awards were based on sleight-of-hand, or worse.
18 posted on 04/01/2012 12:07:32 PM PDT by righttackle44 (I may not be much, but I raised a United States Marine.)
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To: hocndoc

so it’s less about science and more about grant-writing (obtaining free money)?


19 posted on 04/01/2012 12:10:17 PM PDT by blueplum
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To: pieceofthepuzzle
It would be, in my opinion, surprising if even 50% of published research was either correct or reproducible.

At least a third of published papers are never cited by other researchers. That doesn't necessarily mean they're wrong; it means that at best they're trivial or irrelevant. And they may also be wrong. Fortunately, the wrong ones are ignored along with the trivial ones.

20 posted on 04/01/2012 12:16:09 PM PDT by JoeFromSidney (book: RESISTANCE TO TYRANNY. Buy from Amazon.)
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To: Olog-hai
That won’t instill morals or scientific discipline.

And we KNOW what happens when a society/nation loses it's morals and discipline.

21 posted on 04/01/2012 12:53:13 PM PDT by UCANSEE2 (Lame and ill-informed post)
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To: JoeFromSidney

“At least a third of published papers are never cited by other researchers. “

Actually, it’s more like 50% are never cited even once.


22 posted on 04/01/2012 1:26:56 PM PDT by pieceofthepuzzle
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To: Citizen Tom Paine

I was experienced the same concern-the collapse of Western Medicine.


23 posted on 04/01/2012 1:27:40 PM PDT by AEMILIUS PAULUS (It is a shame that when these people give a riot)
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To: cuban leaf

Too...much...information


24 posted on 04/01/2012 3:36:32 PM PDT by VRW Conspirator (Neo-communist equals Neo-fascist)
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To: VRW Conspirator

—Too...much...information—

It’s worth it. Seriously.


25 posted on 04/01/2012 3:57:46 PM PDT by cuban leaf (Were doomed! Details at eleven.)
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To: Olog-hai

Sounds like the “global warming” scam isn’t the only area where science as been corrupted by grant-greedy “scientists”.


26 posted on 04/01/2012 4:04:30 PM PDT by Lancey Howard
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To: cuban leaf

I haven’t looked at cancer research the same since the early ‘70s when I read an article (in Penthouse, believe it or not) called ‘The Solid Gold Cancer Train’.


27 posted on 04/01/2012 4:08:12 PM PDT by Lancey Howard
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To: hocndoc

There is no incentive to find out it was wrong.”


Now apply that to the “social science”.................


28 posted on 04/01/2012 4:16:58 PM PDT by PeterPrinciple (Lord, save me from some conservatives, they don't understand history any better than liberals.)
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To: Olog-hai
Glad you posted this as I was about to do so.

IMO, repetition is the only standard for credibility.

29 posted on 04/03/2012 7:12:41 PM PDT by Carry_Okie (GunWalker: Arming "a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as well funded")
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach

Worthy of a ping list.


30 posted on 04/03/2012 7:17:13 PM PDT by Carry_Okie (GunWalker: Arming "a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as well funded")
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To: neverdem; SJackson

Worthy of another ping list, or two. :-)


31 posted on 04/03/2012 7:18:09 PM PDT by Carry_Okie (GunWalker: Arming "a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as well funded")
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To: Olog-hai

Having written a couple of books that involve controversial topics in environmental regulation, needless to say, I have had to apply a screening method to what I regard as solid v. questionable or even intentionally bogus science. The principal criterion has been: If you can take the findings and produce a profitable product therewith, it’s probably solid. As a result, I tend to consider industry data more reliable than university findings.


32 posted on 04/03/2012 8:19:14 PM PDT by Carry_Okie (GunWalker: Arming "a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as well funded")
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