Altman, Lawrence K. "Researcher Falsified Data in Breast Cancer Study," New York Times, 14

 

Altman, Lawrence K. "Researcher Falsified Data in Breast Cancer Study," New York Times, 14
March 1994, pp. 1, B8.

Here is the Times' front page announcement of skullduggery in science: at Pittsburgh, the major
study of breast cancer. The New England Journal of Medicine originally published the report in
1985 in which their principal finding was that lumpectomies can be used for women with breast
cancer in its early forms. The lumpectomy is as effective as the radical mastectomy. This was
hailed as a major finding as it would deter disfiguring women with the older procedure.

The University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Bernard Fisher were coordinating the whole effort which
involved 5,000 doctors and 484 medical centers. One of these, Roger Poisson of St. Luc's
Hospital in Montreal, was faking the data he sent in. He has now acknowledged faking it in yet
another study in which he participated, which concerned tamoxifen. There were some 100
subjects in the data submitted by Poisson. "Pittsburgh officials said that statisticians at the
National Cancer Institute had confirmed that none of the conclusions of the study had been
altered by removing the data submitted by Dr. Poisson." (p. B8)

These "irregularities" with the original data have been known to Fisher and Pitt for 2 years.
Fisher was advised to submit revisions to the NEJM regarding these irregularities but has not
done so. The editor of the journal reported to be "surprised" that Fisher had not done so.

The question is raised: if they missed the phonied data from Montreal, what else may they have
missed in accepting data? Other irregularities may also have been missed. A thorough review is
called for.

Dr. Lyle Bivens of ORI is reported to have written to NCI's director, Samuel Broder, and
recommended, in February 1993, that Fisher's group "publish a reanalysis of the data, excluding
the falsified Canadian information, ‘to restore public confidence in the conclusions of the
studies.'" (p. B8)

It is reported that Representative John Dingell is interested in the case.