Remember why we work on cancer

Levi Garraway in Nature:

Comment1aI first realized I'd been bitten by the science bug in the summer of 1987. I was walking home from the laboratory, mulling over an organic chemistry reaction that I had been attempting — and mostly failing — to execute. Suddenly, a notion coalesced in my 19-year-old brain: all human biology and disease must ultimately come down to reactions that either proceed properly or go awry. As I savoured the evening breeze, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my career to understanding these mechanisms and thereby to hasten new treatments. Nearly every scientist remembers moments like these. I am saddened, therefore, by the cynical view that has become increasingly common in both academia and industry: that much biomedical science, even — or perhaps especially — that which appears in 'high-profile' journals, is bogus. I am one of many scientists who have seen their past research subjected to unexpected scrutiny as a result. An attempt to replicate work from my team was among the first described by the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology, an initiative that independently repeated experiments from high-impact papers. In this case, as an editorial that surveyed the first replications explained, differences between how control cells behaved in the two sets of experiments made comparisons uninformative1. The replicators' carefully conducted experiment showed just how tough it can be to reproduce result.

…We scientists search tenaciously for information about how nature works through reason and experimentation. Who can deny the magnitude of knowledge we have gleaned, its acceleration over time, and its expanding positive impact on society? Of course, some data and models are fragile, and our understanding remains punctuated by false premises. Holding fast to the three Rs ensures that the path — although tortuous and treacherous at times — remains well lit.

More here.