Skip to comments.In cancer science, many 'discoveries' don't hold up
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 cancera high proportion of them from university labsare 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" publicationspapers in top journals, from reputable labsfor 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 ...
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."
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.
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.
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...
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.
...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.
Not just cancer research, I suspect.
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?
RESPONSE TO POSTS 1-8
It’s all about the money.
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.
Change the tricks they have to do to get a treat.
All you need to know about cancer research, and why I discourage all from giving a cent to cancer research.
You’ll never look at the cancer industry the same way again.
That won’t instill morals or scientific discipline. It’ll merely make them look for new tricks themselves.
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.
“Without reproducibility, its no longer science. Its automatically fraudulent. And whats disgusting is how peoples 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.
so it’s less about science and more about grant-writing (obtaining free money)?
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.
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