Some cancer research cannot be replicated.That might be ok


The results here are not clear. Copying a large number of supplementary materials distributed by the team helps distinguish between “repeatability” (if the experiment is performed again with the same data and methods, will the results be the same?) and “Reproducibility“(Can overlapping experiments with new data produce reliable similar results?).

The COS team tried to make it clear how chaotic all this is. If an experiment cannot be copied, it does not mean that it cannot be copied. This may be a problem of reproduction, rather than a problem of the original work. Conversely, an experiment that someone can perfectly replicate or reproduce is not necessarily correct, nor is it necessarily useful or novel.

But the fact is that 100% pure replication is impossible. Even if the same cell line or the same gene is used to adjust the mouse strain, different people conduct different experiments. Maybe the ones that the replication team does not have the materials to complete will do better. Perhaps “high-impact” articles from the most prestigious journals are bolder, risky, and less likely to be copied.

Cancer biology carries a high risk. After all, it should lead to life-saving drugs. The work that was not replicated for the Errington team may not lead to any dangerous drugs or harm any patients, because phase 2 and phase 3 trials often screen out bad seeds. According to the Biotechnology Industry Organization, Only 30% of drug candidates passed Phase 2 trials, and only 58% of drug candidates passed Phase 3. (Conducive to determining safety and effectiveness, not conducive to wasting all research funds and increasing drug costs.) But drug researchers recognizeQuietly, most approved drugs are not that useful at all—especially cancer poison.

Science is obviously widely effective. So why is it so difficult to replicate an experiment? “One answer is: science is hard,” Ellington said. “That’s why we fund research and invest billions of dollars just to make sure that cancer research can have an impact on people’s lives. It’s true.”

The point of a poor result like the cancer project is to distinguish between what is good for internal science and what is good for civilians. “There are two orthogonal concepts here. One is transparency and the other is effectiveness,” said Shirley Wang, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is the co-director of Reproducible Evidence: Practices to Enhance and Achieve Transparency—“Repeat”—Initiative. The project has replicated 150 studies using electronic health records as data. (Wang’s Repeat paper has not yet been published.) “I think the problem is that we want the two to merge,” she said. “Unless you know the methods and repeatability, you can’t judge whether it’s high-quality science. But even if you can, it doesn’t mean it’s good science.”

Therefore, the point is not to criticize specific results. This is to make science more transparent, which in turn should make the results more reproducible, easier to understand, and even more likely to be translated into the clinic. Currently, academic researchers have no incentive to publish work that other researchers can replicate. The motivation is just to publish. “The measure of success in academic research is the number of papers published in top journals and the number of citations of the papers,” Begley said. “For the industry, the measure of success is an effective and patient-friendly drug on the market. Therefore, we at Amgen cannot invest in a project that we knew from the beginning and did not really have a foothold.”


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