Box 1: Recommendations: Improving the reliability of preclinical cancer studies
We recommend the following steps to change the culture of oncology research and improve the relevance of translational studies:
- There must be more opportunities to present negative data. It should be the expectation that negative preclinical data will be presented at conferences and in publications. Preclinical investigators should be required to report all findings, regardless of the outcome. To facilitate this, funding agencies, reviewers and journal editors must agree that negative data can be just as informative as positive data.
- Journal editors must play an active part in initiating a cultural change. There must be mechanisms to report negative data that are accessible through PubMed or other search engines. There should be links to journal articles in which investigators have reported alternative findings to those in an initial (sometimes considered landmark) publication. One suggestion is to include 'tags' that report whether the key findings of a seminal paper were confirmed.
- There should be transparent opportunities for trainees, technicians and colleagues to discuss and report troubling or unethical behaviours without fearing adverse consequences.
- Greater dialogue should be encouraged between physicians, scientists, patient advocates and patients. Scientists benefit from learning about clinical reality. Physicians need better knowledge of the challenges and limitations of preclinical studies. Both groups benefit from improved understanding of patients' concerns.
- Institutions and committees should give more credit for teaching and mentoring: relying solely on publications in top-tier journals as the benchmark for promotion or grant funding can be misleading, and does not recognize the valuable contributions of great mentors, educators and administrators.
- Funding organizations must recognize and embrace the need for new cancer-research tools and assist in their development, and in providing greater community access to those tools. Examples include support for establishing large cancer cell-line collections with easy investigator access (a simple, universal material-transfer agreement); capabilities for genetic characterization of newly derived tumour cell lines and xenografts; identification of patient selection biomarkers; and generation of more robust, predictive tumour models. C.G.B. and L.M.E.
C. Glenn Begley is a consultant and former vice-president and global head of Hematology and Oncology Research at Amgen, Thousand Oaks, California 91359, USA.
Lee M. Ellis is at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.