Could 89% of Landmark Cancer Research Be Untruthful?

Could 89% of Landmark Cancer Research Be Untruthful?

The last years several different studies investigating the objectivity of scientific research have shown that this quality of science may be seriously compromised by industrial funding. In fact, it looks like the scientific literature is contaminated with a growing number of tainted studies, which may reach 89%, the results of which are not reproducible by any means. This means that to an extent, we have based our healthcare and clinical guidelines on fake studies that reported untruthful results in order to accommodate the interests of industrial corporations.

Cancer is a major killer in US. The American Cancer Society reports that in 2012, more than half a million Americans died from cancer, while more than 1.6 million new cases were diagnosed. Given the seriousness of these statistics and the necessity of evidence-based medicine, it would make sense to trust that honest, objective research is tirelessly trying to find the best cancer therapies out there. In March 2012, Nature, the famous high-impact factor scientific journal, published a shocking study. Glenn Begley and Lee Ellis double checked the results of 53 landmark studies in cancer research, but they were only able to reproduce the published results in 11% of them.

There are two very worrying points here. First of all, the cross-checked studies were published in high-impact factor journals and secondly, they have served as the basis for the "state of the art" cancer therapies that millions of people are receiving this very moment. Unfortunately, the authors were not able to disclose these fake studies, because when they contacted the original authors and asked for details of the experiments, they had to sign an agreement that they would not disclose their findings or sources. This shows that the scientists, who published the tainted research, were all along, fully aware of the discrepancies of their articles and criminally conscious of the fact that they were misleading the medical and public opinion.

The connection and support that many scientists enjoy from big pharmaceutical companies seems to be the core of this problem.  Exposing such connections should be enough to either limit this situation or at least put the credibility of the study in question. However, most people involved in such interactions try to hide them as much as possible. While all authors are gently encouraged to sign the conflict of interest and funding statements prior to publication of their work, data show that only a small percentage of scientists publishing research on anticancer targeted therapies disclose potential sources of bias. A study from the University of Michigan has found that only 29% of cancer studies report conflict of interest. 

This situation is certainly not limited to the area of cancer research.  In fact, clinical guidelines may be severely biased as well. While very few authors of clinical practice guidelines declare conflict of interest, a big percentage of those who do, have financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry that may range from consultancy, equity/stock ownership to old-fashioned research support. These reports paint a disturbing picture indeed and suggest that there is good chance that the greatest part of the clinical healthcare and medical system has slowly been established on corrupted foundations.


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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The point of the comment was...

The paper in question was about preclinical trials.  That is a long way from your headline on "Landmark Cancer Research".   And for that matter for you to have stated that, "they have served as the basis for the "state of the art" cancer therapies that millions of people are receiving this very moment."  - is a gross unproven generalization since you have no proof that these 53 studies have any relationship to the "state of the art cancer therapies" that currently exist.  If you had stayed within the context of their conclusion that, "We need a system that will facilitate a transparent discovery process that frequently and consistently leads to significant patient benefit," we would have at least known which "gorilla" you were talking about.

A misleading headline?

A very misleading headline.  "The researchers reviewed preclinical trials - those done on animals or with cells in a lab. None of the results referenced human trials or outcomes."  While the report certainly does generate numerous questions,  it also does not come close to saying that  89% of cancer research is untruthful.

This is sad

I dont really understand the point of this comment, since,from a scientific point of view, in vitro and animal studies are considered necessary safety steps before human clinical trials are even considered. Sadly, the report does not just raise questions, but shakes the foundations on which actual clinical trials have been based on. Since we have no idea which studies we are talking about, it is impossible to assess the actual impact on applied cancer therapies per se. However, by far the most worrying thing is the reluctance of people to acknowledge the gorilla in the room and pretend that things may not be as serious as implied. 

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