Weekly reads: KRAS G12C, eLife journal controversy, bird iPSCs

If you’ve never heard of the KRAS G12C mutation, it’s a particularly frightening mutation present in numerous cancers.

Like the MYC oncogene, many people view mutations in RAS as undruggable, but new efforts show some glimmers of hope. The drug Sotorasib has been approved by the FDA to target the KRAS G12C mutation. Here’s a new item over at Nature News. Cancer drugs are closing in on some of the deadliest mutationsThis great piece from Heidi Ledford does an excellent job covering efforts to target mutant KRAS in human cancers.

I like how it includes patient perspectives too. A quick Clinicaltrials.gov search found 77 trials mentioning KRAS G12C so that’s encouraging for the future.

KRAS mutations, KRAS G12C
KRAS mutations like G12C are found in many tumors including aggressive pancreatic cancers. “A KRAS mutation turns normal cells (green) precancerous (red) in a mouse pancreas.Credit: Maria Paz Zafra”

I attended and spoke at the annual American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) meeting in Portland this week. One of the sessions that struck me was on experiments in public funding of research including CIRM. I was also on a panel about Right-To-Try, which has not emerged as what its supporters claimed it would be.

asbh meeting
ASBH 2022 Meeting panel on publicly-funded research.

There were many interesting talks and panels. One was on experiments in public bioethics, focused on CIRM and CPRIT. See the image above of the panelists Kirstin Matthews, Geoff Lomax, and Aaron Levine. Running a state research funding agency is very challenging. I think that CIRM has done a great job overall. Note that I am a past recipient of CIRM funding.

New eLife journal policy controversy

As many of you may know, the eLife journal announced a major and controversial change in how it handles manuscript submissions. eLife will soon shift to a policy where they do not accept or reject submissions related to peer review. The editors will decide whether a manuscript gets reviewed. If the answer is “yes” to review, then even with a bad overall review, eLife will publish the paper. One of the criticisms of this new policy is that it would make eLife like a $2,000-a-pop preprint server.

Here’s the most recent “eLife is destroying itself” piece I’ve seen. I get what the eLife leadership hopes to achieve with the change and our current system of publishing and peer review is messed up, but I’m not sure this is the solution.

More recommended reads

2 thoughts on “Weekly reads: KRAS G12C, eLife journal controversy, bird iPSCs”

  1. Without thorough and rigorous peer review, scientific integrity cannot be ensured. This is a huge problem. “Shaking Things Up” or terms like “New and Fresh” are often terms to hide the downsides to a free-for-all or just pay-to-publish. In today’s world filled with fake news or just plain outright lies, we as scientists need to stand behind the most rigorous of reviews to ensure that published science is solid. Otherwise we diminish the scientific integrity of our field.

  2. Dear Admin:

    I’m looking forward to eLife’s new experiment in life sciences research publication; and will probably try it out soon myself. As you know, essentially all high impact factor life sciences journals have an initial screen of submitted manuscripts by editors who decide if they consider the manuscripts of sufficient quality and significance to warrant obtaining external reviews. So, eLife will be like all high impact journals in this respect. The big differences in practice, is that eLife editors state that they will now stand by their selections, no matter what reviewers write for their assessments; and they will share the reviews with the published manuscript.

    Given often contrary and erroneous reviews (which I’m sure you have experienced as well) and the manner in which editors often defer to them without serious adjudication, many authors would love to have a public referendum on not only on their manuscript, but also on the quality of the journal’s review of it. Now with eLife’s new review process, once authors pass the first commonly applied editorial gate, they get that referendum.

    If eLife continues to maintain the anonymity of reviewers, this new editorial format could provide a particularly engaging and educational open scientific discussion forum for new research advances…or the lack thereof, as the case may be. However, just like the review process in current use by other life sciences journals, there will remain many opportunities for abuse and unfairness in eLife’s planned review process as well. Reducing bias in reviewer selection (which is an inherent problem that challenges all manuscript review processes) and avoiding doctoring of reported reviewer comments will be crucial for the integrity of the new publication format. If eLife gets this right, it could be the beginning of a sea change in the way life science research reports are reviewed and published. I, for one, am ready for that change.

    James @ Asymmetrex®

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