New software identifies cancer gene sequence mistakes in research papers

23 November 2017

Two scientists have teamed up to develop a DNA fact checker for research publications and have already found flaws in more than 60 papers. Now they are asking the wider research community to test the program and help improve it

Jennifer Byrne, a researcher into childhood cancer at KRI, joined forces with Cyril Labbé, a computer scientist in France, to develop the Seek & Blastn tool to find errors in pre-clinical cancer publications, Nature News reported.

In 2015 Jennifer Byrne, Professor of Molecular Oncology at Kids Research Institute, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead  and the University of Sydney, first identified errors in five papers on gene function in cancer cells – they were using the wrong nucleotide sequences.

Prof Byrne was very familiar with the gene as she led the team that discovered and cloned it in 1998. This gene is active in acute lymphoblastic leukemia as well as breast cancer.

The same mistake was being repeated in many research papers that study either childhood and adult cancers. Incorrect use of nucleotide sequence reagents can go undetected and therefore represents a source of on-going error. The papers are all basic (pre-clinical) cancer research. So this tool can build reliable and trustworthy pre-clinical data.

The Seek & Blastn tool will help maintain trust in science and ensure that researchers here, and across the world, don’t waste valuable research resources and time on working through erroneous data. Using incorrect data can have implications for the successful translation of cancer research to patients.

The researchers hope the software tool could be taken up by publishers of scientific research.

 Find out more: Flawed cancer research exposed

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