Journal reviews conflicts of interest in cancer research
The American Journal of Industrial Medicine reports this month on undisclosed conflicts of interest in cancer research:
Some consulting firms employ university researchers for industry work thereby disguising industry links in the income of large departments. If the industry affiliation is concealed by the scientist, biases from conflicting interests in risk assessments cannot be evaluated and dealt with properly. Furthermore, there is reason to suspect that editors and journal staff may suppress publication of scientific results that are adverse to industry owing to internal conflict of interest between editorial integrity and business needs.
Among the cases the Journal investigated were:
- The cozy relationship Swedish professor Ragnar Rylander had with Phillip Morris where he worked as a paid consultant.
- The epic abuse of scientific research by Sir Richard Doll, best known for drastically understating the relationship between vinyl chloride (PVC) and cancer.
The report also exposes product-defense industry advocate Dennis Paustenbach for his role in casting doubt on the carcinogenicity of dioxins in Michigan. It was Paustenbach whom EWG brought to account for ghost authoring a Chinese study denying previous findings of a strong correlation between hexavalent chromium and cancer. The journal that published Paustenbach’s unethical report retracted it in July.
The authors of the AJIM review acknowledge that financial relationships between industry and researchers are becoming increasingly common and call for more rigorous and transparent policies on disclosing conflicts of interest.