, 30 tweets, 12 min read Read on Twitter
A new thread about a series of papers in legitimate scientific journals, all from the same author.
These papers have all been peer-reviewed, but no editor or peer reviewer noticed a huge problem.
Warning: this might make your jaw drop.
Let's start with the most recent paper of this set that I could find.
Here it is:
"YXQ-EQ Induces Apoptosis and Inhibits Signaling Pathways Important for Metastasis in Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma Cells"
It is about "YXQ-EQ" that can inhibit lung cancer cells.
At first glance that sounds amazing. And although it was not published in a grand journal, some of the authors are from @Harvard, @BrighamResearch, and @DanaFarber - so it must be excellent research, right?
So, what is this magical compound "YXQ-EQ", you might ask. Excellent question. Let's look at the abstract.
"This study was aimed to investigate cytotoxic effect of external qi of Yan Xin Qigong (YXQ-EQ) toward human lung adenocarcinoma A549 cells".
Mmm, that sounds a bit vague. What is it, exactly?
The introduction text does not help a lot, either.
I want to stress here that it is not my intention to make fun of traditional Chinese Medicine. There are many good medical therapies based on TCM.
Here, I am specifically investigating the "YXQ-EQ" method.
Let's take a look at the Methods section. Surely, we will learn more about how the researchers treated the cells with "YXQ-EQ". After all, the Methods section of a scientific paper should have enough detail so that other researchers can reproduce the study.
There is nothing in the methods about the "YXQ-EQ" treatment.
Let me repeat that, so it is very clear: nothing.
No "Briefly, this involved...".
No reference.
Only that it lasted 5 minutes.
A good reviewer should have asked for a detailed description of the magical treatment.
If not given by authors in revised manuscript, that is reason to reject. That is the strength of #PeerReview.
Apparently, none of the reviewers/editors asked this question.
Yet, this elusive method has great powers. It magically kills cancer cells, so how does it work?
Let's look at the references about the "YXQ-EQ" method. There is a lot of self-citation going on here. Another red flag.
Another red flag: the corresponding author, from @Harvard / @DanaFarber does not list their institutional email. That does not necessarily mean anything (people hop around and so emails change), but I consider this a red flag here.
Let's take a look at some of the other references about the mysterious "YXQ-EQ" treatment.
I suddenly realize that "Yan Xin Qigong" refers to the name of the first author. It is his method, and only Dr. Yan Xin has written about it.
There is another paper (same journal) by Dr. Yan Xin, in which "YXQ-EQ" inhibits colon cancer cells.
"External Qi of Yan Xin Qigong Inhibits Activation of Akt, Erk1/2 and NF-kB and Induces Cell Cycle Arrest and Apoptosis in Colorectal Cancer Cells"
In a third paper, from 2012, "YXQ-EQ" inhibits growth of another cell line of lung cancer.
And surely enough, Magic Method "YXQ-EQ" can also kill off breast cancer cells, according to this 2010 paper.
None of these papers actually describes what "YXQ-EQ" entails. Here are some Methods section screenshots.
In none of these papers, reviewers or editors asked the right questions.
At least, we now have a reference to go to, Yan et al. 2004.
Here we are, after following a hairball of references, we are finally in the year 2004, at this paper published in Brain Research, by researchers from @Harvard, @UofOklahoma and @NIH.
Dr. Yan Xin will now reveal how the method works.
(hold on to that jaw, folks).
Here is a translation of the scientific language. Here is how YXL-EQ works:
Dr. Yan Xin will take the cancer cells to a private room, and will do something secret. So secret that he can only do it in a locked room. Then he will give the cells back. And voila - they are dead.
Maybe Dr. Yan Xin has a UV lamp? Or a bottle of bleach? Or a flame torch?
I am open to other suggestions too.
Again, I want to say that I do not want to make fun of traditional Chinese medicine, or about anyone's believe in Qi as an invisible force of life.
You can read more about Qi here:
But if one single researcher claims that he - and only he - can use Qi to kill off cancer cells, he should be willing to share how they do that.
If it happens behind closed doors, scientists have every reason to be suspicious.
But what is most bewildering is that there are at least 7 peer reviewed, Pubmed-indexed papers based on this mysterious technique.
Seven sets of peer-reviewers and editors who were not doing their jobs.
Also note that this work was funded by the @NIH - really?
This set of papers was brought to me in private by a concerned reader - I did not find them by myself.
Not everyone is in a position to call out bad science, so thank you, concerned reader, for raising this issue.
Be like this concerned reader.
Apologies, I somehow broke this threat by replying to the wrong tweet.
Read the continuation here:
I am also confused that researchers from @Harvard @DanaFarber and @BrighamResearch all put their names on these papers.
One person on the 2004 paper shares name with the Associate Dean for Regulatory Affairs & Research Compliance @Harvard. I hope that is not the same person.
2004 paper reported on @Pubpeer:
And paper reported to the Editors of Brain Research, which were easy to find thanks to the information on the journal's website.
24h update:
I just sent an email to the journal editors and research integrity officers involved in all 6 papers about the Yan Xin Qigong external force method, with a link to the initial tweet. Because it is 2019.
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