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Don't Get Too Excited


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."

The Scan

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.

Study Explores Animated Digital Message Approach to Communicate Genetic Test Results to Family Members

In the Journal of Genetic Counseling, the approach showed promise in participants presented with a hypothetical scenario related to a familial hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome diagnosis.

Computational Tool Predicts Mammalian Messenger RNA Degradation Rates

A tool called Saluki, trained with mouse and human messenger RNA data, appears to improve mRNA half-life predictions by taking RNA and genetic features into account, a Genome Biology paper reports.

UK Pilot Study Suggests Digital Pathway May Expand BRCA Testing in Breast Cancer

A randomized pilot study in the Journal of Medical Genetics points to similar outcomes for breast cancer patients receiving germline BRCA testing through fully digital or partially digital testing pathways.