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NEJM Retracts Two Oral Cancer Studies

Investigation calls data into question; most authors ask to pull the paper

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has retracted two studies on oral cancer because the supporting data is believed to be fabricated, according to an editorial in the Nov. 2 issue of the journal.

Jeffrey M. Drazen, M.D., editor-in-chief of the NEJM, and colleagues report that the retraction follows an 'Expression of Concern' published on Feb. 9 regarding two papers by Jon Sudbo et al. One was published in 2001 on DNA content as a prognostic marker for cancer in oral leukoplakia patients, and another in 2004 that suggested that aneuploidy was associated with greater mortality risk in oral leukoplakia patients, despite resection.

Sudbo is affiliated with two institutions, Rikshospitalet-Radium-Hospitalet Medical Center and the University of Oslo, which subsequently set up a commission to investigate the allegations of data fabrication, including the doctoring of photographs that accompanied the study findings. The English translation of the report was available on Sept. 1 and was then forwarded to all the authors of the two reports.

With the exception of Asle Sudbo (who did not respond to the report) and Jon Sudbo, all authors requested a retraction of the articles. "Jon Sudbo alone does not agree with the commission's report. Given the weight of evidence offered in the commission's report and the requests of most of the authors or the articles, we retract both articles," the NEJM editorial states.

The investigation was prompted by allegations of fraud regarding another study by Sudbo, which was published in October 2005 in The Lancet, which suggested that smokers who took nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs could reduce their risk of oral cancer.

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