Flawed cancer research exposed
Potential widespread fraud concerning a gene linked to cancer has been uncovered by Professor Jennifer Byrne, Head of the Children’s Cancer Research Unit at Kids Research Institute and Sydney University academic. Prof Byrne was the first to discover and clone the gene, TPD52L2, 20 years ago. The gene is active in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, as well as breast cancer, but its functions are poorly understood.
Prof Byrne, an expert in molecular oncology, reviewed papers from independent researchers in China published in scientific journals. She discovered that they shared very similar flawed evidence.
After expressing her concerns to the journals, she worked with an expert in textual analysis, Dr Cyril Labbe of Grenoble Alpes University in France, to detect examples of possible scientific fraud. Their findings were published in the journal Scientometrics.
Five papers, published within a year, were examined in detail and contained similar mismatched data, the same sequences used for different purposes and superficial experiments. Two papers have been retracted. Over 30 other papers contained similar incorrect data.
“Using faulty data could have implications for research into cancer treatments,’ said Prof Byrne. ‘The data could have been purchased from third parties in response to researchers being pressured to publish. It is important to be able to verify that researchers have done what they said they did.”