!!why study was delayed...


Senior Member

Q&A: Why I delayed XMRV paper
Posted by Cristina Luiggi
[Entry posted at 23rd August 2010 07:00 PM GMT]
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After a weeks-long delay, a paper reporting a strong association between the retrovirus xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) and chronic fatigue syndrome was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study, carried out by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, found an XMRV gene sequence in 86.5 percent of patients diagnosed with the syndrome, in contrast to less than 10 percent of healthy people.
Randy Schekman, editor in chief of PNAS

The path to publication took a few unexpected turns. A few days after the paper had been accepted in late May, last author Harvey Alter contacted the staff at PNAS asking to delay its publication after having found that a paper reporting no such association between the syndrome and the retrovirus was in the process of being published in the journal Retrovirology. The rival study, carried out by a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had analyzed blood samples from 51 people with chronic fatigue and 56 healthy controls and found no evidence of an XMRV infection. The CDC team also opted for a delay to review their methodology. Their study was published online July 1st, three weeks after the original publication date, with no additional changes made.

Chronic fatigue syndrome affects around one million people in the US. If a virus indeed has close ties to the disease, then hope may come in the form of antiretroviral treatments. PNAS editor in chief Randy Schekman discusses a journal's role in making scientific knowledge available as soon as possible while still responsibly framing a public health debate.

TS: Is there an established protocol that journals -- or at least PNAS -- turn to in such situations?

Randy Schekman: This is nothing routine. I wasn't aware of [Alter's] paper until I was called by someone in the retrovirus field who expressed concerns. So I alerted my staff in Washington and they told me they had just had a note from Alter requesting that the paper be held, pending discussions with various government agencies. I got concerned with that. And as I became aware of [the Retrovirology] paper, I decided on my own authority to solicit an independent review of the work from an established person in the field -- someone who has very high standards and who has not been involved in this controversy. He wrote a critique, which I then conveyed to Alter, which called for the paper not to be published until they could demonstrate that the virus' genes were integrated into the human genome. Alter then responded several weeks later saying he of course understood this. This was indeed the highest standard that would prove the case, but he felt that his data and the care that he had used in the selection and maintenance of the samples made his data very strong. He felt that by delaying this further, that would be a disservice to the community to hold the data that much longer. So then he sent us a revised version of the paper and I sent it to an independent member of my editorial board, another retrovirus expert. He said on balance he felt the paper should be published now. He agreed that this additional work was crucial but that the data were strong enough to be published now. And so we accepted it.

TS: So would this be a case where delaying, as opposed to releasing peer-reviewed data immediately, is the responsible thing to do?

RS: I think so. We're publishing a science journal here. My strongest feeling is that the data that we publish, we want to be of the highest caliber. We're not publishing a blog. Timeliness is important, but it is not the most important thing. Accuracy and the strongest evidence possible is what I feel we must uphold.

TS: How could the process have gone smoother?

RS: For me, and as far as PNAS is concerned, where I feel we might have done a better job was in identifying how this particular paper might have caused [a controversy]. I was not aware of this paper until I got a call from this outside retrovirologist. If we're going to be faulted at all at PNAS is that we weren't aware of the implications of this work until after it was already accepted.

And we try. The staff at Washington, they're not trained scientists, but we try to examine the papers that we're reviewing to see if they have anything unusual about them that would cause additional publicity. We have cases of papers that come to controversial conclusions that are in a variety of disciplines. We have papers in our sustainability section in PNAS which often touch on climate change issues. In this case, the paper was reviewed by two well-known retrovirus experts and the staff in Washington had no reason to question the work or bring it to my attention.

TS: Anything else you'd like to add?

RS: Alter went through considerable pains to try to eliminate [contamination] by using samples that were sealed for many years from patients who had chronic fatigue syndrome and where the signal that he detected was consistent over many years. It looks like he's done as good a job as he could without actually show[ing] that the sequences were contiguous with human DNA. That I trust will be what he does next. I would hope that he would do that next or someone would do that next before the NIH calls for clinical trials and certainly before patients start being treated with antiretroviral drugs off-label. That could be a very bad consequence of this.

S.C. Lo, et al., "Detection of MLV-related virus gene sequences in blood of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy blood donors," PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1006901107, 2010.

R. Schekman, "Patients, patience, and the publication process," PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1012027107, 2010.

Read more: Q&A: Why I delayed XMRV paper - The Scientist - Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57628/#ixzz0xSXxek2p


waitin' fer rabbits
South Texas
Ah, great, the CDC was so important (with major screwed up science) that this guy had to alert someone in Washington to manage the guy who says there might be some MLV sequences in CFS patients????? Why do I feel like throwing up????
Sound like Alter was pushing for publication. Thanks Alter... I'm a little bit in love with you now.


Senior Member
this is totally NOT clear. so the editor asked for a critique, got it, the critique guy told alter to re-test things, alter said no, and they published? is that the sequence of events?


Senior Member
Basically the editor was biased against CFS.

Look at the trash the CDC get published and Wessely & McClure.
(Both were incapable of having a CFS known positive and yet still are allowed to publish their findings on 0% XMRV in CFS).

But when Alter/lo tries to show XMRV DOES exist in CFS, with much more robust methods that the papers that DID get published in other journals, the editor thinks 'uhh ohh' and gets it pulled via a proxy method so he shirks responsibility for it being pulled and can blame someone else.

Blatant set up. We patients have no idea how much we are unliked in the outside world by scientists, a negative view created by the psych's that other scientists latch on to and see us a easy prey.
I'm glad Alan Dove woke me up to this by printing negative talk on CFS patients with total confidence, utterly unaware that the patient base he is talking about is able to read, comprehend and defend itself.
Slowly, we are getting stronger. The more we legitimize ourselves through science, the more equal we become and the more human rights we will gain.

Onwards and upwards.

Snow Leopard

South Australia
this is totally NOT clear. so the editor asked for a critique, got it, the critique guy told alter to re-test things, alter said no, and they published? is that the sequence of events?

I'm hoping they continue with the suggested re-testing for another paper as it will finally make the finding really strong.


Senior Member
Clinical trials now!

Thanks Wasbeer. I have been saying this all night. Clinical Trials Now. I think it should be our new mantra. If we could make that the major talking point to the media, I think it could bring us closer to a cure!