Junk science? Most preclinical cancer studies don't replicate

When a cancer study is published in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal, the implication is the findings are robust, replicable, and point the way toward eventual treatments. Consequently, researchers scour their colleagues' work for clues about promising avenues to explore. Doctors pore over the pages, dreaming of new therapies coming down the pike. Which makes a new finding that nine out of 10 preclinical peer-reviewed cancer research studies cannot be replicated all the more shocking and discouraging.

SIGMOD Repeatability Effort

As part of this project, in collaboration with Philippe Bonnet, we are using (and extending) our infrastructure to support the SIGMOD Repeatability effort. Below are some case studies that illustrate how authors can create provenance-rich and reproducible papers, and how reviewers can both reproduce the experiments and perform workability tests: packaging an experiment on a distributed database system (link in title).

How Bright Promise in Cancer Testing Fell Apart

Research at Duke University in genomics that involved fighting cancer by looking for gene patterns that would determine which drugs would best attack a particular cancer (no more trial-and-error treatment, considered a breakthrough). This research turned out to be wrong, due to flaws in the research (found by statisticians); if the research was reproducible, errors could have been found earlier and the patients could have continued their treatment.

It’s Science, but Not Necessarily Right

NY article discussing the issues with scientific reproducibility: "Why? One simple answer is that it takes a lot of time to look back over other scientists’ work and replicate their experiments. Scientists are busy people, scrambling to get grants and tenure. As a result, papers that attract harsh criticism may nonetheless escape the careful scrutiny required if they are to be refuted."