Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Medical studies not reproduced

Reuters reports on the sorry state of medical research:
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. ...

Scientists at Bayer did not have much more success. In a 2011 paper titled, "Believe it or not," they analyzed in-house projects that built on "exciting published data" from basic science studies. "Often, key data could not be reproduced," wrote Khusru Asadullah, vice president and head of target discovery at Bayer HealthCare in Berlin, and colleagues.

Of 47 cancer projects at Bayer during 2011, less than one-quarter could reproduce previously reported findings, despite the efforts of three or four scientists working full time for up to a year. Bayer dropped the projects.

Bayer and Amgen found that the prestige of a journal was no guarantee a paper would be solid. "The scientific community assumes that the claims in a preclinical study can be taken at face value," Begley and Lee Ellis of MD Anderson Cancer Center wrote in Nature. It assumes, too, that "the main message of the paper can be relied on ... Unfortunately, this is not always the case."
Similar results have been found before, as mentioned here, here, and here. See the work of John P. A. Ioannidis. These studies are better than astrology and acupuncture, but we need to be skeptical about new medical studies that have not been reproduced.

1 comment:

A K Haart said...

Here in the UK, you see many news stories where basic medical research findings are claimed to have potential for cancer treatment.

The claims are always presented as per the press release, but my impression is that researchers are often just looking for more funding.

I don’t see any willingness to tackle or even acknowledge the problem, even though it is slowly becoming more well-known.