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Evaluating XMRV As An Indicator Of Prostate Cancer Risk

Discussion in 'XMRV Research and Replication Studies' started by Jemal, Jul 13, 2011.

  1. anciendaze

    anciendaze Senior Member

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    Perhaps we should give the process a distinctive spelling to indicate it is not exactly what it is supposed to be. I modestly propose the term pear review. This helps to explain why research regularly goes pear-shaped.

    An alternative, for cases where the process goes off the deep end, is pier review. :innocent1:
  2. Jemal

    Jemal Senior Member

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    ROFL!

    Anyway, thesis or not, it looks like a positive study to me.
  3. RedRuth

    RedRuth Senior Member

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    Well you can understand my confusion given the title of the forum

    Well, I have professional experience of peer review in the molecular sciences which focuses on techniques and experimental design. I don't know enough about medical trials to venture an opinion.
  4. eric_s

    eric_s Senior Member

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    Interesting. I agree that for us it provides information we would like to have. I just think it might cause a lot of bad blood among the scientists and lead to revenge acts (not accepting a paper of someone who didn't accept yours) or then it might make somebody be afraid to say "no" to a paper in a different situation. But maybe it's more common than i thought and no problem.
  5. Mark

    Mark Acting CEO

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    Aside from the questionable value of peer review (many of us here have completely lost any faith we may have had in that process over the course of the last 2 years, and have lost respect too for the meaningfulness of whether something has been peer-reviewed or not, and that alone highlights the urgent need for reform of the process, which I believe should be very much along the lines that Esther12 has suggested), this does indeed seem to be another positive XMRV study, as Jemal has pointed out.

    Since the thread is at risk of being sidetracked onto these questions about how significant peer review is (and it's a relevant question because many of us might well be sceptical that it will be possible for this study to be published precisely because it is positive), could we perhaps hear more about the implications of this study assuming that it is valid?

    It seems to me that this indicates that Silverman et al are continuing undaunted with XMRV research - which is good news - and that they are continuing to detect XMRV by nested RT-PCR in prostate cancer patients - focusing now on detection in the urine and highlighting the low copy numbers and the "challenges of performing PCR methods as an indicator of XMRV infections". This last sentence, in particular, seems to indicate that Silverman and his group remain entirely unconvinced by the contamination theory, and undaunted by the negative studies.

    Quick scan of the paper: 36/143 prostate cancer samples positive (25.2%), 2/63 control samples positive (3.2%) (see p.41 of the paper) http://etd.ohiolink.edu/send-pdf.cgi/Barton Maria.pdf?kent1309619878, and >99% sequence identity to VP62 ("one nucleotide change in more than 200 nts")...which doesn't appear to worry the team in terms of sequence conservation.

    These numbers are once again very much consistent with the previous positive studies, including the rate of infection found in controls.

    I guess this may mean that this study can't be published or reported in the press, although (unlike CFS) it does appear that research into the association of XMRV with prostate cancer is still being permitted at present. But to reiterate a point that many of us have made ad nauseam on this forum: if the prostate cancer studies are valid (and the consistent differential rates found by those who do find it strongly suggest that they are), then the background rate of infection that those studies find in healthy controls is inconsistent with the negative XMRV/CFS studies that failed to find any XMRV in anyone. Statistically it is virtually impossible for valid XMRV assays to fail to detect any XMRV at all in a control group, if XMRV really is present in healthy controls at the levels that this study and others have indicated. We've crunched those numbers often enough and the probability of failing to detect any at all with a valid assay is vanishingly low.

    So: these results are consistent with previous positive findings of XMRV in prostate cancer, supportive of the positive XMRV/CFS studies, and inconsistent with the negative XMRV/CFS studies.

    It's a positive XMRV study whichever way you slice it, and if the peer review process is going to kick it into the long grass then I think it should be quite obvious why that peer review process needs to be open and transparent if scientists expect informed observers with an interest in ME/CFS to have any trust at all in the trustworthiness of the process.

    And given that we also hear that retroviruses such as XMRV are now known to have been created in labs since the 1970s and transmitted horizontally between cell lines surprisingly easily, and thus that these retroviruses are artificial creations, routinely created in labs, which appear to be associated with prostate cancer, ME/CFS and other illnesses, the sheer scale of the controversial implications of what is already known makes it pretty clear that XMRV in ME/CFS is a reality that science simply does not want to face, and certainly does not want to discuss in public at this point in time. And meanwhile...it's back to the CBT and GET for all...and anyone who complains too loudly is just rude...
  6. maryb

    maryb iherb code TAK122

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    :D:D:D:D
  7. eric_s

    eric_s Senior Member

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    This is indeed very striking. I don't do statistics, even though i have some basic knowledge about it, but it seems almost too consistent (not in a sense that i feel like it discredits the conclusion) :eek:. Let's assume the actual prevalence was 25% in prostate cancer. Shouldn't you see 21%, 32%, etc., you know what i mean? Ok, 143 is a nice sample size, i guess, but it would mean that this virus has spread very "well", wouldn't it?
  8. Jemal

    Jemal Senior Member

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    Thanks for your post Mark. I fully agree with everything you say and give it 2 thumbs up :D

    Fortunately there are still dozens of scientists at least, pursuing XMRV. Though XMRV does seem to become more and more the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about...
  9. Mark

    Mark Acting CEO

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    Thanks Jemal.

    What has been most striking to me throughout the last couple of years is the distorted nature of the public information about XMRV, and the defensive and - I have to say - paranoid response of the scientific establishment to the areas of science we have been interested in. Scientific scepticism is of course quite understandable, and appropriate, but the reaction to XMRV from certain sections of the 'sceptic' community has at times seemed to verge on the hysterical. And then there is the highly suggestive evidence we now find emerging from once-secret files, which proves a still-active attempt to keep parts of this area of medical science out of public view - and, indeed, out of the view of most scientists.

    I think the least we can say is that the implications of the way this research is pointing are so profoundly disturbing to many people in the medical world that their instinctive reaction is to suppress any of these ideas - and quite likely many do so as a reflex, almost unconsciously.

    Tippexing out Elaine DeFreitas' name from recently-released secret files (see "Cause of ME a State Secret in the UK?") may seem like a very minor detail, and it doesn't prove a deliberate cover-up, but it certainly does indicate a long-standing determination to ensure that disturbing ideas are not widely publicised and - crucially - that such ideas are not given equal air-time within the scientific process. The tiniest of tweaks to the processes involved may have profound effects in distorting the state of scientific knowledge. It is not simply the direct effects of the suppression of information that we have to consider, but the indirect effects as well. Practicing scientists read blogs and newspapers too, and their lifetime research interests are inevitably influenced by what they read there - and also by what they don't read.

    I think it was Currer who pointed out that there seem to be two narratives here: one for the scientific community and one for the general public. That schism between a scientific intelligentsia which investigates and collaborates behind closed doors, and a public perceived as ignorant and "not needing to know" until everything has been settled, is profoundly damaging to society, in my opinion, and I also think this model is becoming untenable. It breeds mistrust, paranoia, and conspiracy theory mentality on both sides of the divide. The only solution lies in greater openness and transparency - and the journal and peer review systems, and the secret medical files, seem to be the keys to that.

    There are some very disturbing possibilities to be faced. What would be the implications if it were to be widely known that retroviruses have been created in the laboratory, spread around the world through unknown means, and infected humans, causing diseases both old and new? What consequences for society if the press were free to publish stories highlighting the genuine possibility that such retroviruses may sometimes be transmitted in infected vaccines? What if it turned out that these artificial organisms were responsible not only for ME/CFS, but also for increased levels of conditions like autism, and even for rising rates of cancers? These are only possibilities, but they are real possibilities, and they seem to be possibilities that our society simply cannot admit openly.

    The ethical arguments for keeping such information suppressed are clear - especially in the case of vaccination - but those arguments rest on an assumption of the ignorance and irresponsibility of the general population. Yet what we end up with here is an argument that because people are ignorant, information must be withheld from them; because they are irresponsible, they cannot be given the information necessary to make informed decisions. Surely this is a circular argument? Could it be that such a policy actually fosters the very ignorance and irresponsibility that it uses as its justification?

    I have to believe that we can handle the truth: if science has been causing harm to some people and this information has been unacknowledged, inadequately explored, or even suppressed, then there is nothing scientific about ignoring evidence. And if, on balance, the risks associated with new technology are worth taking, and compensation for the victims of scientific progress is assured, then I think most people would make the intelligent decisions...if only those decisions can be based on reliable and accurate information, from sources that we can trust.

    But in our area of science that has clearly not been the case, in recent times at least, and that situation really has to change.
  10. Persimmon

    Persimmon Senior Member

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    So, who is Maria Barton, and where does she fits in?
    Here's what I found:
    - This research is her masters thesis from Kent State University (in Ohio).
    She is continuing her research as a PhD student.
    - Kent State has formal partnership links with the Cleveland Clinic (also in Ohio).
    Her masters and doctoral research is being (& has been) conducted at the Cleveland Clinic.
    - The chairman of her thesis committee is none other than Dr Robert Silverman.
    Dr Eric Klein has also been assisting her.

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