Skip to comments.In cancer science, many 'discoveries' don't hold up
Posted on 04/06/2012 7:33:59 AM PDT by HangnJudge
NEW YORK (Reuters) - 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.
(Excerpt) Read more at news.yahoo.com ...
Science: Branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged. So says the dictionary. But, as most scientists appreciate, the fruits of what is called science are occasionally anything but. Most of the time, when attention focuses on divergence from this gold (and linguistic) standard of science, it is fraud and fabrication the facts and truth that are in the spotlight. These remain important problems, but this week Nature highlights another, more endemic, failure the increasing number of cases in which, although the facts and truth have been established, scientists fail to make sure that they are systematically arranged. Put simply, there are too many careless mistakes creeping into scientific papers in our pages and elsewhere.
A Comment article on page 531 exposes one possible impact of such carelessness. Glenn Begley and Lee Ellis analyse the low number of cancer-research studies that have been converted into clinical success, and conclude that a major factor is the overall poor quality of published preclinical data. A warning sign, they say, should be the shocking number of research papers in the field for which the main findings could not be reproduced. To be clear, this is not fraud and there can be legitimate technical reasons why basic research findings do not stand up in clinical work. But the overall impression the article leaves is of insufficient thoroughness in the way that too many researchers present their data.
The finding resonates with a growing sense of unease among specialist editors on this journal, and not just in the field of oncology. Across the life sciences, handling corrections that have arisen from avoidable errors in manuscripts has become an uncomfortable part of the publishing process.
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.
ANNALS OF SCIENCE
THE TRUTH WEARS OFF
But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. Its as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesnt yet have an official name, but its occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology. In the field of medicine, the phenomenon seems extremely widespread, affecting not only antipsychotics but also therapies ranging from cardiac stents to Vitamin E and antidepressants: Davis has a forthcoming analysis demonstrating that the efficacy of antidepressants has gone down as much as threefold in recent decades.
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.
IMHO, until we get rid of NIH, etc. and return the money to the states for research we will continue to have these problems. The university administrations are bloated because of the overhead, >45%, and only consider NIH type grants for promotion if they will own up to it. Researchers are tied to the good ole boy system of making their grants fit the whatever is popular with the in crowd and are not using the “chance favors the prepared mind” approach that has worked for centuries. The NIH, CDC are spending much of the money themselves on intramural research so if you want what’s left you have to play the game. BAD FOR SCIENCE and the public.
There are many talented researchers that loose their jobs yearly because of the grant game and we are loosing their research which may be the key to the cure for X. They made the mistake of telling the truth, my experiment didn’t work. Keep the money home and state fund the universities to do their own research and free the minds of the researchers and insist on American students instead of foreign students.
Exciting results seem to come right around new funding cycles
THAT IS WHY GOVERNMENT FUNDING OF ANYTHING IS STUPID
I am trying to wrap my head around why NASA was a success on the moon program, if what i just said is true, and i think I have it- COMPETITION
We had a motivated staff competing against the Russians.
One of the rare occurances where government had positive motivating factors.
Mostly they sit around shuffling papers (and I have worked for enough of them to know)
But we’re supposed to believe the AGW/Climate Change scientific papers, and if we don’t we should receive forced psychiatric evaluation and behavior modification training.
The way I perceive it, scientists do research on basic questions and then make deductions based on the results of the research. It’s those deductions, and not the results, that form the bulk of today’s “scientific opinion.” It may be the “opinion of a scientist” but it’s not science.
Huh? Is that going to get FR in trouble with copyright laws?
One must always define their sources,
I try to do this, if it is a problem,
delete the post or the comment, I'm not proud
Selective reproduction of others works must always be labeled as such
A painfully slow process of demonstrating systemic errors
in both Basic Science and Derivative Research is occurring,
now in very public venues such as Science Magazine and Nature.
It is my hope that shining a light on this process
may prevent the subsequent waste, fraud, and harm
that propagates as a consequence
“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.”
Now where have we heard this before? “The science is settled!” Al Gore would be proud.
What’s interesting is how both conservatives and liberals are only selectively open to the possibility of widespread misinformation. Conservatives understand that global warming is a farce, but many have unshakable faith in allopathic medicine. Liberals distrust allopathic medicine but believe 100% in global warming.
You’d think that evidence of one would beget questions of the other.
I just don't want FR getting into trouble.
Thank you, and duly cautioned
“Whats interesting is how both conservatives and liberals are only selectively open to the possibility of widespread misinformation. Conservatives understand that global warming is a farce, but many have unshakable faith in allopathic medicine. Liberals distrust allopathic medicine but believe 100% in global warming.”
Excellent point. With regards to medicine, in discussion boards I frequent, many have an almost religious devotion to either the allopathic or holistic approach. IMO, the most productive approach is a rational selection of the best of what both have to offer.
The scientific method has been replaced by science by consensus. After all with moral relativism there is no such thing as objective truth.
ROFL Good Toon!