This is a follow-up to the previous article, about a misconduct investigation at the Cardiff University in UK into the published works of cancer researcher Wen Jiang, professor of Surgery and Tumour Biology, Fellow of Royal Society of Medicine and chair of Cardiff China Medical Research Collaborative. The following guest post by my regular contributor Smut Clyde now delves deep into the peculiar approach with which Professor Jiang intends to cure cancer: namely by peddling herbal (and not so herbal) medicinal powders, manufactured by a Chinese company Yiling Pharmaceuticals. Jiang sees there no conflict of interest, even in presenting the patented concoctions of Yiling as his own research in Cardiff. It is not exactly the case that Jiang was hiding his connections to Yiling, outside of his conflict of interest declarations, that is. His own Cardiff University initiated the collaboration with the Chinese company in 2013 and proudly announced the engagement to the British Parliament in 2014. In 2015, Yiling helped Jiang and Cardiff University to organise The China–United Kingdom International Cancer Conference, attended by the First Minister of Wales and the Vice-Chancellor of the Cardiff University.
Jiang’s cancer-fighting magic ingredients are ginseng and other herbs, plus a cockroach, a parasitic fungus and bits of chicken gizzard, all sold by Yiling. Sometimes it includes Divine Comedy (don’t ask). Yiling’s potion named “Yangzheng Xiaoji” was certified by Cardiff University in an Impact statement as a metastasis inhibitor, which “has been shown to be beneficial to patients with certain solid tumours when used alone…“. The sole basis for this bold claim from respected British university was a 2009 paper by Yiling in an obscure Chinese journal, which incidentally is edited and published by Yiling.
Continue reading “Fried Divine Comedy, featuring anti-cancer cockroach and phallic fungus”
The Cardiff University in UK is now investigating two cancer researchers, both senior professors, for suspected scientific misconduct. The evidence was submitted by pseudonymous Clare Francis, I publish below the results of preliminary investigations. One of these two professors is Robert Nicholson, specialist in breast cancer, former director of Tenovus Centre for Cancer Research, now professor of Cardiff School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, celebrated on BBC in 2008 for discovering a therapy target for tamoxifen-resistant tumours. The other is Wen Jiang, professor of Surgery and Tumour Biology at Cardiff University School of Medicine specialising in metastatic solid tumours, Fellow of Royal Society of Medicine and chair of Cardiff China Medical Research Collaborative. Jiang also made it into BBC news in 2013, when he announced to have discovered a “formula”, “consisting of 14 herbs” from traditional Chinese medicine, to stop cancer metastasis.
The two great doctors Jiang and Nicholson made great promises to cancer patients. A preliminary investigation by Cardiff University now determined that those promises were based on duplicated images and cloned gel bands. Importantly, the committee also saw irregular splicing of gels as a problem, an issue many tend to dismiss. The traditional excuse goes that gel splicing was allegedly permitted until 2008 or so. In fact, irregular splicing of gels, where bits of different gels are assembled to look as it were one intact physical gel, was never permitted and always considered to be data manipulation. Especially where due to splicing the gel loading controls are proven not to match the analytic gels, the entire figure becomes meaningless. Or worse, it indicates research misconduct. Continue reading “Cardiff investigates two cancer research professors for data manipulation”
The European Union Commission staunchly refuses to tell me what exactly their funded scientists intend to do to the scheduled 48 trachea transplant patients under the Horizon 2020-financed phase 2 clinical trial TETRA. By now the highest authority, the European Ombudsman, is engaged, and still EU Commission does not bulge. The general technology of TETRA and its indefinitely suspended phase 1 UK predecessor Inspire is however known: cadaveric tracheas from dead donors will be collected, decellurised to remove all the host cellular tissue, and then subjected to the magic of recellurisation in bioreactors, where bone marrow and epithelial cells will turn a dead carcass into a living organ, ready for transplant.
The cadaveric grafts must either to be obtained very fresh (a nightmare of impracticability), or kept frozen before they are needed, otherwise they will rot. Leanne Partington, a PhD student of the UCL trachea makers Mark Lowdell and Martin Birchall, investigated in her 2014 PhD thesis the effect of this freeze-thaw step on the decellurisation process (it proved to increase efficiency) but also on the graft stability, as measured by compression tests. This is where it turned out that the defrosted grafts lost roughly half of their mechanical stability. Which means they would collapse immediately when implanted into patient, which was indeed exactly what happened. Yet UCL and EU Commission want to keep trying, and according to the patented technology by the trial sponsor Videregen, defrosted tracheas are to be used. Which by EU business-oriented logic suggests, the patented technology from the freezer is to be used in TETRA.
The two experiments UCL performed on the patients Ciaran Lynch and Shauna Davison in 2010 and 2012, respectively (read here), used defrosted tracheas. Both trachea grafts collapsed right away, only that Birchall and his partners decided to omit this critical information about Ciaran’s trachea in their Elliott et al Lancet 2012 paper, while telling untruths about Shauna’s fate. The UCL trachea transplanters until very recently either forgot about Shauna’s existence, or pretended her new trachea functioned great up to her allegedly unrelated death just two weeks after the transplant. Continue reading “UCL’s decellurised tracheas: strong and stable?”
The Science and Technology Committee of the British House of Commons is now dealing with the trachea transplants performed by the scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini and his former parter at UCL, Martin Birchall as part of its inquiry into Research Integrity. Two UK scientists from Liverpool initiated this with their written submission from November 21st 2017 which I previously re-published: Patricia Murray, professor in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, previously a nurse on a Head and Neck unit, and Raphael Lévy, senior lecturer in nanotechnology. Their concerns were not just the past trachea transplants, but also the present clinical trials with bioengineered trachea and larynx which UCL is most keen to start with, following the recommendation of an investigative commission from last year. UCL’s problem is however, that the two phase 1 UK trials are suspended by the UK authorities, and the big phase 2 EU-sponsored trial cannot begin recruiting patients without the results from phase 1.
By now it looks like UCL and their laryngology professor Birchall are in a pickle. Their own reply to the letter by Murray and Levy was not really honest when describing past UCL trachea transplant patients to the Parliament committee. On top of it, it turned out Birchall was reusing data from same old experiments on 16 pigs across different publications which were meant to show separate studies. This, and many more inconsistencies of UCL’s reply to the House of Commons are addressed in the re-published new letter by Murray and Levy from January 30th 2018 below. Continue reading “Trachea transplanters: Round 2 at UK Parliament”
Before biology became digital, with its -omics and big data, there were mostly gels and microscopy images. The peak of image use in biomedical papers was reached at the turn of the century, those became the golden times of Photoshop-assisted data manipulation. Not many suspected that scientists would sit at their computers digitally cloning gel bands inside gel images, stitching seemingly continuous figure panels from various, often unrelated gels, erasing image background and fragments which might have spoiled the narrative, or reusing old published pictures as new results. Many of the authors of such manipulated papers are meanwhile professors and directors of institutes, some also act as academic editors of scholarly journals. Nothing can touch them now, all they have to do when fingers are pointed on internet, is to sit it out until the evidence of misconduct turns into entertaining anecdotes of their wild youth.
These Millennial years, which became the Golden Age of Biological Imaging is why PubPeer is overflowing with evidence of grossly manipulated data from the period around late 1990ies till around 2010. It is not that scientists became more honest since, but they sure became more difficult to catch on data rigging. For one reason, gross image reuse or manipulation is rare these days, after the warning stories of research misconduct became widely known. Scientists probably returned to manipulating data the old way, by tweaking the experimental conditions or rigging samples in the lab. You can’t get caught on that until a colleague blows a whistle, and Academia has its long-honed ways of swiftly dealing with such despicable rat-finks. The other reason why evidence of data manipulation will soon become rare, is digitalisation of biological analytic technologies. As long as noone can force you to release your original gene expression analyses, microscopy files, code or spreadsheet quantifications, it is all up to your ingenuity. After all, your data is just a row of numbers, no IT or Photoshop skills needed there.
To celebrate the past Golden Age of Biological Imaging, I selected an example of the British cancer researcher Paul Workman, President and CEO of the huge Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in Sutton, which is in greater London and part of the University of London. Workman, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, received many awards and much funding thanks to his work on the heatshock protein 90 (HSP90), which his papers reliably validated as a druggable cancer target. Prof Workman is about to cure cancer, and indeed, his preclinical research on HSP90 has moved into clinical trials. Continue reading “Collages by Paul Workman, from the Golden Age of Biological Imaging”
The esteemed London university UCL seems to live in its own world. There, the regenerative medicine magic thrives, living organs miraculously grow in labs, while stem cell-made trachea transplants proved a blessing for humanity, despite the negative vibes from UCL’s former honorary professor Paolo Macchiarini. UCL’s own laryngology professor and regenerative medicine enthusiast Martin Birchall cured several patients already, and it is imperative that he is allowed to save more lives with his tracheas and voiceboxes, regenerated from dead decellurised carcasses using patient’s own bone marrow cells. Scientific evidence and research integrity are nothing but cumbersome bureaucracy, which restrain the genius of Birchall, whose educated guess alone should suffice as solid proof.
This is basically how UCL replied to the to request from the Science and Technology Committee of the British House of Commons, following a critique of Birchall’s trachea transplants submitted as RES0022 on November 21st 2017 by the Liverpool scientists Patricia Murray and Raphael Lévy. The undated UCL reply appeared online around the New Year and is a staunch defence of Birchall’s endeavours, while calling the two Liverpool researchers “emotive” and dismissing the evidence on my site as inaccurate. It is authored by UCL Registrar Wendy Appleby, who incidentally was now appointed by UCL to investigate Birchall’s data re-use, where he apparently resurrected long-dead pigs twice, by turning some ancient animal experiment data with regenerated larynx into two fresh and very distinct studies.
The biggest inaccuracy, or barefaced lie (as you prefer), is UCL’s pretence that they had nothing at all to do with a certain lethal transplant of a cadeveric trachea, performed by Macchiarini on July 13th 2010 in Italy on the young British patient Keziah Shorten. I have been protesting to UCL Hospital (UCLH) and the British information authorities for a whole year against the refusal of UCLH to release the information about their involvement into that trachea transplant, and eventually UCLH was forced to reply to me. Even then they only admitted what I already knew, and now they hide this information from the UK Parliament inquiry. I will share it here then. Continue reading “UCL fibs Parliament about trachea transplants”
With his three trachea transplant clinical trials suspended, the British laryngologist and UCL professor Martin Birchall now tries to pull at least the clinical trial RegenVox, which is about the “regenerated” voice-box (larynx) and upper trachea, out of the bog. In order to get an approval to transplant human patients, UCL’s chief trachea transplanter tries to prove in several papers to his funder MRC that the technology is safe in pigs. For this he seems to be reusing data in his recent papers from 2017, to illustrate utterly different experiments, in fact some of this data is at least 7 years old. One wonders if Birchall fibbed the authorities and the scientific community about the novel nature of his results. Was the confused scientist simply salami-publishing and re-interpreting the preclinical data he actually obtained long before he received MRC funding for RegenVox? The evidence of the larynx transplant data reuse across two recent papers and the grant proposal document from 2010 follows below, background on Birchall’s RegenVox and his trachea transplant adventures is here and here.
The UCL laryngologist uses the technology which developed with his former partner, the scandal trachea transplant surgeon Paolo Macchiarini. The method is to strip the cadaveric donor organ of all cells (in a process called decellurisation) and then bring it back to life as recipient’s own organ using the magic of bone marrow cells. In Birchall’s own words, those magic cells recognise the decellurised organ by its shape and know what to do then: Continue reading “Image reuse, the new low of UCL trachea transplanter Martin Birchall?”