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Conflict of Interest in Cancer Studies

Posted May 18 2009 10:10pm

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- A U.S. study have found that nearly one third of cancer research articles published in medical journals have financial ties with pharmaceutical companies.

As the great comedian Lenny Bruce might have deadpanned- "I'm so shocked".

The study, published online on Monday in the journal Cancer, indicates that conflicts of interest may cause some researchers to report biased results that are favorable to pharmaceutical companies.

Reshma Jagsi of the University of Michigan and her colleagues reviewed 1,534 cancer studies published on eight medical journals, including Cancer, the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet.

According to the researchers, 17 percent of the studies declared industry funding while 12 percent had a study author who was an industry employee. Randomized trials with reported conflicts of interest were more likely to have positive findings.

"It's becoming increasingly clear that we need to look more at how we can disentangle cancer research from industry ties," said Jagsi. "If we wish to minimize the potential for bias, we need to increase other sources of support."

"Medical research is ultimately a common endeavor that benefits all of society, so it seems only appropriate that we should be funding it through general revenues rather than expecting the market to provide," she said.

Many medical journals now require researchers to disclose potential conflicts of interest in the articles they submit for publication, but the researchers urged that "journals should embrace both rigorous standards of disclosure and heightened scrutiny when conflicts exist."

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