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Oral cancer study 'fabricated'

Norwegian researcher made up list of patients for Lancet study, alleges hospital

A Norwegian cancer expert invented fictitious patients for an article in The Lancet that concluded common painkillers could decrease the risk of getting oral cancer, according to the hospital where he works.

Dr Jon Sudbo, 44, a researcher at Oslo's Radium Hospital, allegedly made up patients and case histories for the study entitled Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and the risk of oral cancer published in the medical journal in October 2005.

ìThe material was fabricated,î said Radium Hospital spokeswoman, Trine Lind. ìWe are shocked. This is the worst thing that could happen in a research institution like ours.î

Norwegian daily newspaper Dagbladet reported that of the 908 people in Dr Sudbo's study, 250 shared the same birthday.

Stein Vaaler, director of external relations at the hospital, described the data in the article as ìtotally false, actually totally fabricatedî.

A colleague raised questions about the article when it was published, and when Dr Sudbo was confronted this week about the data, he acknowledged the fabrication, Vaaler said.

The hospital said it had halted Dr Sudbo's research at the department of Medical Oncology and Radiotherapy and was discussing whether he could continue treating patients.

It also said it had set up a commission to investigate why he falsified data and how his material managed to pass a peer review process. The panel will also take a look at previous articles by Dr Sudbo, two of which have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Lancet editor, Dr Richard Horton, said the study would be retracted if Oslo supplied confirmation that it had been falsified.

ìThere are huge implications for the entire scientific community to make sure that it has the best safety checks in place to prevent fabrication and falsification of data,î he told Reuters.

He defended the current system of peer review but said the competitive nature of scientific research probably contributed to the case.

Last week, the Washington-based journal Science announced that it was unconditionally retracting two papers by South Korean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk, who publicly apologised for faking data that claimed to show the creation of stem cells from the world's first cloned human embryos.

30th September 2008

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