Falsified Bone Marrow Study

Two weeks ago, the principle investigator of a study that gave hope to women with advanced breast cancer admitted that he had falsified crucial parts of his data.

The South African study claimed that ultra-high doses of chemotherapy followed by bone marrow transplants helped prolong the survival of women with advanced breast cancer.

But officials at the university that conducted the experiments said that researcher had falsified his claims and was under investigation for scientific misconduct.

Since then, Aetna/ US Healthcare has contacted doctors to inform them that some forms of bone marrow transplants would no longer be covered. They will, however, provide coverage for the treatment used on illnesses where studies have proven its effectiveness, like leukemia. They will also maintain coverage for federally funded studies.

‘Significant deviations’

Two weeks ago, Werner Bezwoda, who chaired the Hematology and Oncology at the Johannesburg university, acknowledged he “committed a serious breach of scientific honesty and integrity” in a statement to his colleagues about the study.

The University of the Witwatersrand Medical School researcher came under investigation soon after he presented his study at a convention of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Colleagues became suspicious when four other studies were presented about bone marrow transplants with very different results.

Soon after, an independent American audit team flew out to investigate the study and found “significant deviations from standard conduct.”

Professor P. Cleaton-Jones of the University of Witwatersrand recommended that the results “not be used as a basis for further trials.”

Dr. John Durant, executive vice president at ASCO, said researchers present their findings at the conference under rigorous scientific standards, but also under an honor system.

“He misled us, he misled the public, he misled the people who are being treated. I am very, very distressed, and very angry,” Durant said.