Melbourne’s iconic Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre has become embroiled in a research misconduct scandal after an investigation discovered experiments in an important cancer study were likely never performed.
We of course do not know all of the details and so can only base our assessment on what is reported in this Sydney Morning Herald story. But what is reported in that story is deeply concerning. It appears that research funding that could have been used to improve the care and treatment of sick Australians have been wasted on a trial that never happened. Australia desperately needs an investigative body that is independent, well resourced and fearless.
The study was led by Mark Smyth, who was one of Australia’s foremost cancer researchers until 2021, when his employer, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, in Queensland, reported him over allegations of research misconduct.
Before Smyth worked at QIMR, he spent 13 years working at Peter Mac, rising to co-head of the cellular immunity program. He published more than 150 papers while working there.
Last week, the Journal of Clinical Oncology placed a retraction notice on a paper Smyth co-authored while working at Peter Mac; the paper was published in 2016, after he had left the institute.
The paper looked at the case of a 39-year-old woman with melanoma that had spread to her bones.