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Originally published August 20 2008

New England Journal of Medicine Admits to Publishing Potentially Fraudulent Lung Cancer Study

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) In a correction and editorial, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has revealed that a study on a new method of diagnosing lung cancer might have been tainted by financial conflicts of interest.

"We and our readers were surprised to learn that the source of the funding of the charitable foundation was, in fact, a large corporation that could have an interest in the study results,'' the editorial read in part. "It is important to ask whether a study on clinical outcomes in lung cancer should be directly underwritten in part by the tobacco industry.''

The study in question concluded that lung cancer deaths could be reduced 80 percent by the use of computed tomopgraphic (CT) scans to detect the cancer earlier. From the beginning, the study attracted controversy, with critics charging that early diagnosis did not prove a decreased death rate, and that the method delivers many false positives that could lead to unnecessary biopsies.

Then in March, the New York Times revealed that the study had in fact been almost entirely funded by a tobacco company.

In the correction, study author Claudia Henschke clarified that $3.6 million, or "virtually all" of the study funding from the Foundation for Lung Cancer had been contributed by Vector Group Ltd., parent company of Liggett Tobacco.

Vector had announced its funding of Henschke's research as early as 2000, but this was not disclosed to the NEJM.

The journal was aware, however, that Henschke and co-author David Yankelevitz were receiving royalties from General Electric, a major manufacturer of CT machines, for their pending patents on ways to manipulate and interpret data from the scans. This conflict of interest was not disclosed when the article was published.

The NEJM announced that it would be implementing stricter requirements for study authors to disclose their funding sources.

"It had not been a practice at the time to ask people about the pedigree of their sources," chief editor Jeffrey Drazen said. "This has been a learning process for us."

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