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Don't Get Too Excited

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TetraLogic's Glenn Begley says a high number of scientific discoveries that seem as though they may be beneficial to cancer patients turn out to be less than reliable, reports Reuters. In a commentary published in Nature this week, Begley says he took 53 studies from well-known labs — and considered to contain important discoveries in cancer research — and asked his team to reproduce the results. In 47 of the 53 cases, Begley tells Reuters, his team couldn't replicate the results. "These are the studies the pharmaceutical industry relies on to identify new targets for drug development. But if you're going to place a $1 million or $2 million or $5 million bet on an observation, you need to be sure it's true," adds Begley, who used to work at Amgen. "As we tried to reproduce these papers we became convinced you can't take anything at face value."

But some cancer researchers tell Reuters that just because Begley wasn't able to reproduce the studies he chose, that doesn't necessarily mean there's something wrong with them. "Cancer biology is fiendishly complex," Reuters says. MIT cancer biologist and Nobel Prize winner Phil Sharp tells Reuters, "A cancer cell might respond one way in one set of conditions and another way in different conditions. I think a lot of the variability can come from that."

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