Posts Tagged cancer research

Project to improve European cancer communications

New Web site launches $1.7 million project to improve European cancer communications, EurekAlert, July 19, 2009. Excerpt:

The Eurocancercoms project is an initiative of the European Institute of Oncology and is led by ECCO – the European CanCer Organisation and ecancermedicalscience (an online, open access journal).

Comment: The OA journal ecancermedicalscience has published three volumes, one for each of 2007 (7 articles), 2008 (34 articles) and 2009 (16 articles, so far). Free registration is required to view the full text of an article. About the journal: “It is free to publish your paper, it is free to register and read – and you’re free to comment online, on the science, the editorials, the policy papers or the case reports“. The journal uses the name ecancer on Twitter. A FriendFeed search for ecancer (on July 24, 2009) yielded tweets from dated March 4, 2009 or later. Tweets dated February 23, 1009 or later were available (again, on July 24, 2009) from the ecancer site itself. I have not yet found a way to archive links to individual tweets.


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An example of the value of OA datasets

Prognostic gene signatures for non-small-cell lung cancer by Paul C Boutros and 8 co-authors, including Frances A Shepherd, Ming-Sound Tsao, Linda Z Penn and Igor Jurisica, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2009(Feb 5) [Epub ahead of print]. [PubMed Citation][OA full text (PDF)][Version in PMC]. Excerpt from the Discussion:

This extensive validation was only possible because of the public availability of a large number of previous studies, highlighting the benefit of earlier work in the field.

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Another Canadian access policy

The National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC) supports cancer research in Canada using funds raised by the Canadian Cancer Society and the Terry Fox Foundation. The NCIC now has an Open access policy.  (Version dated 01 August 2008 archived by WebCite® at: Excerpts:

Effective July 2009, all researchers supported in whole or in part through the NCIC are required to make their published results of NCIC supported work publicly available. Researchers are encouraged to make their work publicly available as soon as possible, but must do so no later than six months after the final publication date.


As part of this policy, the NCIC will provide support for any charges levied by publishers that are required to comply with this open access process. Such charges may be included as legitimate research expenses (fully justified as with all other expenses) in the budget of a research grant submission.

See also: Open access policy FAQs. (Version dated 01 August 2008 archived by WebCite® at: Excerpt:

9. What if a journal is compliant with open access, but does not allow the paper to be made freely available until 12 months after publication?
Researchers are able to submit their work to a journal that does not support public availability within six months of the publication date. The NCIC does not wish to compromise the ability of researchers to publish in high-impact journals. However, researchers must inform the NCIC of this limitation and the paper must be made freely available as soon as possible. Please email when this issue arises for monitoring purposes. Like other agencies, the NCIC is applying pressure to non-compliant journals to allow for public availability within six months.

Comment: The NCIC policy is similar to the Policy on Access to Research Outputs of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

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A special feature in Nature Reviews Cancer

As is pointed out in: Cancer stem cells in solid tumours: a review (Cancer Stem Cell News, September 25, 2008), there’s a review entitled: Cancer stem cells in solid tumours: accumulating evidence and unresolved questions, by Jane E. Visvader & Geoffrey J. Lindeman, in Nature Reviews Cancer 2008(Oct); 8(10): 755-68. This review is currently available gratis, as a special feature, to registered visitors to Nature Reviews Cancer. Registration is also free. Yet another NPG experiment with OA? (See also: OA to Nature supplement, Gavin Baker, Open Access News, September 23, 2008).

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OA oncology journals

Peter Suber has posted an item (Open Access News, August 18, 2008) about Oncology Journals: Open-Access Publications, from Oncology Watch. It’s a list of oncology journals that provide free access to full-text articles. Of the 21 journals on the list, I could identify only 7 for which an Impact Factor (IF) was available via the 2007 JCR Science Edition of Journal Citation Reports, from the ISI Web of Knowledge. (I have access via the University of Toronto Libraries).

Of these seven Gold OA journals (in which all research articles are OA), I could identify only 3 that had 2007 IFs larger than 4. These were: Neuro-Oncology (5.80), Neoplasia (5.67) and Breast Cancer Research (4.37).

For comparison, examples of well-known cancer-oriented journals are (2007 IF in brackets): Cancer Cell (23.86), Journal of the National Cancer Institute (15.68), Journal of Clinical Oncology (15.48) and Cancer Research (7.67).

The good news, from the perspective of an OA advocate, is that the three Gold OA journals (all of which have issues beginning in 1999) have IFs that are approaching that of Cancer Research. The bad news is that their IFs are still well below those of Cancer Cell, JNCI and JCO.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) lists 38 journals belonging to subject: Oncology. Of these, I counted 23 that currently are not listed by Oncology Watch. For only one of these 23 was an IF available. It was CA : A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, which has a very high 2007 IF (69.03). However, most of the articles in CA are solicited reviews, like the reviews in Nature Reviews Cancer (2007 IF: 29.19).

Of course, an alternative to Gold OA journals is Green OA (via OA archiving in a suitable repository). Some good news, according to information available via the SHERPA/RoMEO site: the Green OA policy for Cancer Cell permits postprints to be posted on the personal or institutional website or server of authors. (See also Copyright information for Cancer Cell).

The Green OA policy for JCO is unclear. Cancer Research has a 12-month embargo on Green OA. JNCI also has a 12-month embargo on Green OA, but provides a hybrid paid OA option via Oxford Open. It would be of interest to find out whether or not JCO would accept an appropriate Author Addendum to the journal’s usual publication agreement.

Another alternative is to publish cancer-related articles in Gold OA journals that specialize in health-related topics that include cancer/oncology, and already have high IFs. Two examples are the Public Library of Science journals PLoS Biology (2007 IF: 13.50) and PLoS Medicine (12.60).

The Journal of Clinical Investigation (2007 IF: 16.915) provides immediate access to some articles. An recent example is an article on overcoming cancer cell drug resistance, J Clin Invest 2008(Sep 2); 118(9): 3109-3122 [PubMed Abstract]. There are also several journals with high IFs that provide free access to articles one to six months after publication. See, for example, the Free Medical Journals site (but, it should be noted that the IFs currently shown may not be the most recent ones).

One may ask: why so much emphasis on IFs? For a recent essay that grapples with this and related issues, see: Thinking about prestige, quality, and open access (Peter Suber, SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #125, September 2, 2008). A brief excerpt:

Impact factors (IFs) rose to prominence in part because they fulfilled the need for easy quantitative judgments and allowed non-experts to evaluate experts. As they rose to prominence, IFs became more tightly associated with journal prestige than journal quality, in part because their rise itself helped to define journal prestige.

A recommendation: read the entire essay.

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Better access to cancer care in Canada

A CIHR news release, dated 24 August 2007, is: Canada’s New Government Invests $10.1 Million for Better Access to Cancer Care from Prevention to Palliation.


Canada’s New Government through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in partnership with CancerCare Manitoba and Cancer Care Nova Scotia will provide the funding over the next five years to seven research teams.

“Evidence, based on solid scientific research, is key to informed health decision making. The 7 teams being funded today will provide exactly the kinds of evidence that cancer patients, policy makers and family doctors need to improve the quality of cancer care across Canada” stated Dr. Alan Bernstein, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

“We are committed to working with provinces and healthcare experts to improve timely access to high quality health care, a top priority for CIHR and for all Canadians,” said Dr. Branton, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Cancer Research. “These teams will advance knowledge in many areas that are of strategic importance to our health care system, and will ultimately allow for better access to cancer care for patients and their families.”

It seems self-evident the the “kinds of evidence that cancer patients, policy makers and family doctors need to improve the quality of cancer care across Canada” should be openly accessible, when the research that’s being described has been supported from public funds.

Note that 7 teams have been awarded funding. The leaders of these teams are listed below, together with information about their 5 previous publications that have been highest-ranked by Google Scholar.

1) Richard Doll (B.C. Cancer Agency): Of the first 5 articles that were co-authored by Richard Doll (not the Oxford epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll, now deceased), 3 were found to be freely accessible (60%). These 3 were published between 2001 and 2005.

2) Brenda Elias (University of Manitoba): Excluding contributions to books, all of the 5 highest-ranked articles or reports were found to be freely accessible (100%). These 5 were published between 1998 and 2006.

3) Eva Grunfeld (Dalhousie University / Cancer Care Nova Scotia): All 5 highest-ranked articles were found (one after an additional Google search) to be freely accessible (100%). These 5 were published between 2004 and 2006.

4) Alan Katz (University of Manitoba): Of the 5 highest-ranked publications, 3 were found to be freely accessible (60%). These 3 were published between 1998 and 2004.

5) William Mackillop (Queen’s University): Of the 5 highest-ranked articles, 3 were found to have at least one version that’s freely accessible (60%). These 3 were published between 1999 and 2000.

6) Devidas Menon (University of Alberta): No way was found to access any of the 5 highest-ranked articles (0%). However, an article in Health Affairs (2001) is freely accessible.

7) Scott Tyldesley (B.C. Cancer Agency): Of the 5 highest-ranked articles, one (published in 2005) was freely accessible, and 4 (published in 2003 and 2004) were accessible by patients in need of medical information, via Elsevier’s Patient Research Beta.

Excerpt from About Patient Research:

Elsevier has launched a beta pilot that supports patients and their family members looking for medical information; providing access to individual full text journal articles from selected Elsevier publications. The articles are delivered via email for a minimal handling fee of $4.95.

The pilot will help the individual journals assess the level of demand for medical information from the public and provide a public service to those in medical need. The journals testing this approach cover different medical fields and represent both publisher and society journals. These journals are testing this approach because they have content that is relevant to common medical conditions and are relatively straightforward to understand. …

Of the 35 articles, published previously by these 7 team leaders and highly-ranked by Google Scholar, 20 (about 60%) were found to be freely accessible.

Can this percentage (already a majority) be improved upon? In particular, will the new CIHR Policy on Access to Research Outputs increase such percentages? (For access to the policy, see: Outcomes of this kind from the policy won’t be available in the short term. What’s likely to be needed soon is a formative evaluation plan for the policy.

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OncologySTAT portal for cancer research

Elsevier provides free online access to 100+ oncology journals, Peter Suber, Open Access News, September 10, 2007. This news item is about OncologySTAT and includes Peter’s comments about this portal for cancer research.

See also: About medical publishing and advertising, Greg Dahlmann,, September 10, 2007. Excerpts:

The web delivered a bit of a serendipitous dialectic today on the subject of how medical journals pay the bills. This morning, the New York Times published a story about the launch of OncologySTAT, Reed Elsevier’s new ad-supported portal for cancer research. The publisher’s plan basically goes like this:

1. Aggregate cancer research
2. Get doctors to register to use the site by providing free access
3. Tell pharmaceutical advertisers about all the doctors gathered in one place
4. Profit

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The mind-cancer survival question

There has been much interest in the controversial possibility that psychosocial interventions might be used to prolong the survival of cancer patients. See, for example: The mind – body connection and cancer: Can support groups help me live longer? (Oral Cancer Foundation, undated). Excerpt:

Groups have become popular as a means of support among patients. They got an enormous boost in 1989 when Dr. David Spiegel, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, reported a ten-year study showing that women receiving standard treatment for metastatic breast cancer who had participated in group therapy lived longer by an average of eighteen months. The study was not originally designed to look at survival, and the women were never told that group sessions might influence their survival. Published in the British medical journal Lancet, this study created a great stir in the medical community and among patients. …

This topic is of great interest to lay readers. For example, a search of the Breast Cancer Mailing List Archives for the key words ‘David Spiegel’ yielded almost 200 messages. [A sidebar: research involving messages sent to such mailing lists raises issues of Internet research ethics about ‘list mining‘].

In view of the great interest (especially from a lay perspective) in research on psychosocial oncology, one might hope that a high proportion the relevant research articles would be OA. They aren’t.

One example: the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology isn’t an OA journal. (However, according to information available via the section on ‘Preprint Distribution Rights’ of the Publication Agreement of Haworth Press, Green OA is permitted – that is, authors can archive the preprint, and can replace it with the final draft post-refereeing. A summary of this policy is also available via the SHERPA/RoMEO website).

Another example is provided by the article mentioned in the above excerpt. It’s: Effect of psychosocial treatment on survival of patients with metastatic breast cancer, by Spiegel D, Bloom JR, Kraemer HC, Gottheil E, Lancet 1989(14 Oct); 2(8668): 888-91. Only the Abstract is freely accessible, via the Elsevier Article Locator.

The first author, David Spiegel, is a member of the Stanford Cancer Center. A list of publications provides access to the abstracts of each published article (but not to the full text).

A PubMed search for articles authored by David Spiegel yielded a set of 109 articles. Of these, 8 were identified by PubMed to permit, at present, free access to the full text. Of the most recent 20 articles, only one is identified as providing free access to the full text. Of these first 20 articles, Google Scholar and Google searches yielded free access to the full text of one additonal article (2/20 = 10%).

However, articles co-authored by Janine Giese-Davis can be accessed via the publications of Janine Giese-Davis, after a login/password for a downloadable publication has been obtained from the author via email.

The current version of her webpage hasn’t been updated yet to include access to a recently-published article, “Effects of supportive-expressive group therapy on survival of patients with metastatic breast cancer : a randomized prospective trial”, by David Spiegel, Lisa D. Butler, Janine Giese-Davis and colleagues, Cancer 2007; 110(5): 1130-38 (Epub Jul 23). A PubMed abstract is available, but a subscription is required to access the full text. An excerpt (Conclusions):

The earlier finding that longer survival was associated with supportive-expressive group therapy was not replicated. Although it is possible that psychosocial effects on survival are relevant to a small subsample of women who are more refractory to current hormonal treatments, further research is required to investigate subgroup differences.

A news release about this publication is: Support groups don’t extend survival of metastatic breast cancer patients, Stanford study finds, Stanford University Medical Center, 22 July, 2007.

A commentary about this same article is: Group Therapy Fails To Improve Breast Cancer Survival, by David Sampson, Director, Medical & Scientific Communications, American Cancer Society (23 July 2007).

How about access to relevant recent reviews? There’s a recent OA review: The effect of psychosocial factors on breast cancer outcome: a systematic review, by Matthew E Falagas and five colleagues (Breast Cancer Research 2007; 9: R44). It’s identified as a ‘highly accessed‘ OA article. Excerpt (Conclusion):

Most of the studies show a significant relationship between psychosocial factors and survival, but the actual psychosocial variables related to survival are not consistently measured across studies and the findings for many of the psychosocial variables with survival/recurrence are not consistent across studies. Thus, more research is warranted regarding the role of social support, marriage, minimizing and denial, depression and constraint of emotions on breast cancer survival.

Another recent review isn’t OA. It’s:What is the state of the evidence on the mind-cancer survival question, and where do we go from here? A point of view, by Joanne Stephen, Michelle Rahn, Marja Verhoef, Anne Leis, Support Care Cancer 2007(Aug); 15(8): 923-30. Epub 2007 Jun 26. This is a Springer journal, and only the Abstract is freely accessible. (See also the Abstract in the BioInfoBank Library).

An excerpt from the Abstract:

Some researchers view the mind-cancer survival question as resolved and negative, whereas others identify conceptual and methodological challenges and view the possible impact of psychosocial factors on survival as simply unproven. We take the position that the question is unanswered.

It seems likley that there will be additional attempts made to answer the question. Those who attempt to do so should be encouraged to provide open access to their peer-reviewed publications.

Still uncertain about how to do this? For a brief summary of several options that are available, see an item in Biology Library News, Washington University in St. Louis (23 August 2007). This news item includes a link to a summary of the relevant issues. The options that are listed don’t explicitly include the ‘request a login/password’ approach built into the publications page of Janine Giese-Davis.

Not all of these options provide optimal access. However, they are compatible with the goal of John Willinsky’s book: ‘incremental advances in the circulation of knowledge’.

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Cancer stem cells for breast cancer research

A news item, Newly created cancer stem cells could aid breast cancer research, by Alyssa Kneller, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research (13 August 2007) is about an article, “Transformation of Different Human Breast Epithelial Cell Types Leads to Distinct Tumor Phenotypes”, Cancer Cell 2007(14 Aug); 12(2): 160-170. The authors are Tan A. Ince, Andrea L. Richardson, George W. Bell, Maki Saitoh, Samuel Godar, Antoine E. Karnoub, James D. Iglehart and Robert A. Weinberg.

The full text isn’t freely accessible from this Cell Press journal. (For previous posts to this blog about Cell Press journals, see: Paying a fee for Green OA, and Stem cell research). Only the Summary is accessible without a subscription:

We investigated the influence of normal cell phenotype on the neoplastic phenotype by comparing tumors derived from two different normal human mammary epithelial cell populations, one of which was isolated using a new culture medium. Transformation of these two cell populations with the same set of genetic elements yielded cells that formed tumor xenografts exhibiting major differences in histopathology, tumorigenicity, and metastatic behavior. While one cell type (HMECs) yielded squamous cell carcinomas, the other cell type (BPECs) yielded tumors closely resembling human breast adenocarcinomas. Transformed BPECs gave rise to lung metastases and were up to 10[power]4-fold more tumorigenic than transformed HMECs, which are nonmetastatic. Hence, the pre-existing differences between BPECs and HMECs strongly influence the phenotypes of their transformed derivatives.

The corresponding author is Robert A. Weinberg, a senior cancer researcher who is the author of a well-received book, Biology of Cancer (Publisher: Garland, 30 June 2006).

A PubMed search for articles authored by RA Weinberg yielded a set of 301 articles. (The article cited above hadn’t been indexed by PubMed yet). Of these 301 articles, links to free full text were provided via PubMed for 108 (36%). Of the most recent 20 articles, 6 have PubMed links to free full text (30%). Searches via Google Scholar and Google quickly revealed free full text versions of 7 of the 14 other articles in the 20 most recent articles indexed by PubMed, for a total of 13/20 (65%). Usually, these latter free full text versions were available because an embargo period had elapsed.

In subsequent posts, I hope to provide more examples of this kind. My reason for an interest in such examples? It’s the leading researchers in various fields of research and scholarship who serve as role models for their more junior colleagues.

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