Cancer studies pass reproducibility test

Though researchers have had general success reproducing cancer results, studies involving mice have proven difficult to replicate. Adva/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A high-profile project aiming to test reproducibility in cancer biology has released a second batch of results, and this time the news is good: Most of the experiments from two key cancer papers could be repeated.

The latest replication studies, which appear today in eLife, come on top of five published in January that delivered a mixed message about whether high-impact cancer research can be reproduced. Taken together, however, results from the completed studies are “encouraging,” says Sean Morrison of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, an eLife editor. Overall, he adds, independent labs have now “reproduced substantial aspects” of the original experiments in four of five replication efforts that have produced clear results.

In the two new replication efforts, however, one key mouse experiment could not be repeated, suggesting ongoing problems with the reproducibility of animal studies, says one leader of the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology.

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The unusual initiative was inspired by reports from two drugs companies that up to 89% of preclinical biomedical studies didn’t hold up in their labs. The project is having contract labs repeat key experiments from about 30 high-impact cancer papers published between 2010 and 2012. Whereas some researchers laud the effort, others have worried that contract labs lack the expertise to perform certain experiments as well as cutting-edge academic research labs and that any failures will unfairly tarnish the field.

In January, critics’ fears were realized when the first five…