Several sites cite a paper they claim was published in the Lancet in, variously, 1989, 1990, or 1991. All agree that the paper was written by Ulrich Abel and published in the Lancet.
This page tells us that Dr Ulrich Abel “published his shocking report in 1990 stating quite succinctly that chemotherapy has done nothing for 80% of all cancers; that 80% of chemotherapy administered was absolutely worthless” and goes on to state that the report was published in the Lancet in 1991. Which is odd, because I’d be surprised to see the Lancet publish a paper that had already been published a year earlier.
Here, it is claimed that Ulrich Abel PhD also found in a similar 1989 study that “the personal views of many oncologist seem to be in striking contrast to communications intended for the public.” but this may be a different study to the one referred to by the above site. It’s hard to tell, given that they don’t (either of them) at any stage correctly cite the paper. As the dates are different, perhaps I should assume that this is a different paper. The site does also tell us, though, that Abel published a paper in 1990 – could this be the Lancet paper? No. It is a monograph published in Healing Journal, No. 1-2, Vol.7 of the Gerson Institute. Yes, the Gerson Institute – Gerson Therapy is the one with the coffee enema. The Gerson Institute link to clinics providing the therapy (there’s an online form you can fill in to apply for admission to a Gerson clinic) and they also have an online shop selling books, videos, and audio recordings.
I emailed the first of these two websites to ask them for the full reference so I could take a look at the paper they were citing.
I then went to PubMed, where I was unable to find any papers published by Ulrich Abel in the Lancet. There was a single hit – a response to a paper on “open versus laparoscopy assisted colectomy” published in 2002.
Next, I tried to find Ulrich Abel on the biomedexperts page. His profile is there. There is no mention of a 1989, 1990, or 1991 paper in the Lancet. Link.
Finally, I emailed the Lancet to ask their reprint department if they could find this mysterious paper. If I get a response from either the Lancet or the Minnesota Wellness site I’ll add it to this post. Maybe it will come to be known (by me) as “the paper I couldn’t find” rather than “the paper that never was”, but I think the odds are against this happening.
This isn’t an unusual situation – or, at least, not as unusual as it should be. It is all too common to find people: citing the wrong reference; misrepresenting the findings of a paper; citing a paper and incorrectly claiming it is published in a peer-reviewed journal or a journal indexed on Pubmed; or cherry-picking small or poorly-designed studies that suit their argument while ignoring others.
To pick just one person as an example, Patrick Holford has recently written a blog post that included two links to evidence that he thought backed his argument. In the first link, he cited the wrong paper – and the second paper linked to was an open label study with no control group. Holford Watch discuss this referenciness.
Holford also made an unfortunate error in the citation of a paper on allergy testing. I wrote about it here, and a commenter noted that the journal is called “Nutrition & Food Science”, not “The Journal of Nutrition and Food Science”. The distinction may be important, as Nutrition and Food Science is not peer-reviewed. No peer-review, please – we’re nutritionists. “Emerald has appointed an Editor who is a respected expert in the subject area concerned. The decision whether or not to publish is made by the Editor. Second opinions may be taken. “
One more thing: I noticed that John Scudamore of whale.to has cited this (non-existent?) Lancet paper in a thread on Science-Based Medicine. He also links to several pages on his own site, thus invoking Scopie’s Law. [Link to SBM: here.]
EDIT 21/4/09: Genuine cancer stats are available here at Cancer Research UK – http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/cancerstats/