Norwegian Doctor in the Hot Seat

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Just weeks after Korean authorities confirmed that stem cell research from the laboratory of Woo Suk Hwang had been fabricated, the medical community is reeling from another scientific scandal. The editors of the New England Journal of Medicine announced this evening that they have doubts about the research of Norwegian cancer expert Dr. Jon Sudbo of the Radium Hospital in Oslo. Their formal “Expression of Concern” about two articles they published from Sudbo and his colleagues in 2001 and 2004 is being released at the Journal’s website (content.nejm.org). This comes after the Lancet issued its own “Expression of Concern” about research Sudbo published in that medical journal in October of last year.

“This is just the first step in the process,” says Karen Pedersen, a spokesperson for the New England Journal. The Journal editors are now checking with the authors of the paper to explore whether formal retraction is necessary. Pedersen says that the Journal began looking into the matter earlier this week as soon as they learned about the problems at Lancet.

There’s been no reply to a message sent to Sudbo’s email address late Friday.

One hospital spokesman told the BBC, “[Sudbo’s] database had been completely fabricated on his computer." A Norwegian daily reported that 250 of the 908 people in the Lancet study shared the same birthday.

The Lancet work involved research that concluded that common painkillers like ibuprofen could help reduce the risk of oral cancer among smokers—although at the risk of dying from cardiovascular problems. The research in the New England Journal papers had to do with the potential use of DNA tests to determine the severity of oral cancers and precancerous lesions.