UK research paper of the yearBMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h2125 (Published 23 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2125
- Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist, London, UK
Discrepancies in bone marrow stem cell trials
Do stem cells taken from the bone marrow and injected into patients with heart disease improve heart function? Lots of people believe so, and meta-analyses by the Cochrane Collaboration show a significant positive effect.
But individual trials produce conflicting results, for no very obvious reason. Darrel Francis, professor of cardiology at Imperial College in London, says: “Some things in the early trials didn’t add up and when we went to the journals that published them, we were fobbed off. So we decided to look at discrepancies in all the published trials.” Discrepancies were defined as two or more reported facts that cannot both be true because they are logically or mathematically impossible.
The team’s paper, published in The BMJ, concluded that the more discrepancies a paper contained, the more positive its results. “This field of therapy appears to be most effective in the hands of researchers whose reports contain factual impossibilities,” say Francis and colleague Graham Cole. “Indeed, when the factual impossibilities disappeared, so did any effect of the therapy.”
They expected a sharp reaction from researchers with many discrepancies. “We tried to soften the blow by not naming the hundreds of report authors directly,” Francis says. “But it was authors with few discrepancies, and small or zero effect sizes, who criticised the study most vocally.” This includes the Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network, funded by the US National Institutes of Health with $30 million, whose data coordinator, Lem Moyé of the University of Texas, told people to disregard the …