When a follower approached Dr. Elisabeth Bik with a set of studies published in various scientific journals, she was puzzled. The studies all described a new method of destroying cancer cells it referred to as "YXQ-EQ," and several had received federal funding or Harvard University's stamp of approval.
There was just one problem: YXQ-EQ involves one man, a self-described "miracle worker" taking cancer cells into a locked room, alone, and bringing them out 10 minutes later, dead.
A new thread about a series of papers in legitimate scientific journals, all from the same author. These papers hav… https://t.co/XfZydpPfAL— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558646013.0
Bik broke down the numerous issues with the studies in a viral thread:
Let's start with the most recent paper of this set that I could find. Here it is: "YXQ-EQ Induces Apoptosis and In… https://t.co/nXas47j9f7— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558646097.0
The papers, which feature authors from reputable institutions, claim this new mystery method (YXQ-EQ) has amazing results!
It is about "YXQ-EQ" that can inhibit lung cancer cells. At first glance that sounds amazing. And although it was… https://t.co/OtXDOVzWuY— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558646303.0
But there's a problem...none of the papers seem to go into detail about what exactly YXQ-EQ is.
So, what is this magical compound "YXQ-EQ", you might ask. Excellent question. Let's look at the abstract. https://t.co/oKkT4Im3Zm— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558646430.0
"This study was aimed to investigate cytotoxic effect of external qi of Yan Xin Qigong (YXQ-EQ) toward human lung a… https://t.co/ag0BEOzsIg— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558646629.0
It seemed that YXQ-EQ had something to do with Qi, "the life force believed to exist in everything" in classical Chinese culture. Bik made it clear her point was not to belittle or discount non-traditional or eastern medicine, but scientific studies mean nothing if their methods can't be replicated.
I want to stress here that it is not my intention to make fun of traditional Chinese Medicine. There are many good… https://t.co/U65O6Lm5Ff— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558646758.0
Let's take a look at the Methods section. Surely, we will learn more about how the researchers treated the cells wi… https://t.co/l3gxCXG8NA— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558646990.0
Yet, the studies left out any mention of what YXQ-EQ might be.
There is nothing in the methods about the "YXQ-EQ" treatment. Let me repeat that, so it is very clear: nothing. N… https://t.co/vmoHviJY5s— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558647140.0
For some reason, none of the peer reviewers who were meant to catch this mistake managed to notice that the study's central treatment method was left completely mysterious.
A good reviewer should have asked for a detailed description of the magical treatment. If not given by authors in… https://t.co/RFE7VaW1qQ— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558647395.0
A lot of red flags popped up as Bik went searching for what YXQ-Eq might be...
Yet, this elusive method has great powers. It magically kills cancer cells, so how does it work? Let's look at the… https://t.co/42CAjDEMtB— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558647651.0
Another red flag: the corresponding author, from @Harvard / @DanaFarber does not list their institutional email. Th… https://t.co/I6gdXKHHIw— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558647835.0
Let's take a look at some of the other references about the mysterious "YXQ-EQ" treatment. I suddenly realize that… https://t.co/WQYoze6BGV— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558648003.0
There is another paper (same journal) by Dr. Yan Xin, in which "YXQ-EQ" inhibits colon cancer cells. "External Qi… https://t.co/QFO36hUQrl— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558648264.0
Dr. Yan Xin seems to be the only scientist working with YXQ-EQ, a method partially named after himself.
In a third paper, from 2012, "YXQ-EQ" inhibits growth of another cell line of lung cancer. https://t.co/YwTVG8HvH2 https://t.co/yS25tKDdff— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558648417.0
Yet, somehow, all of Xin's papers avoid saying what YXQ-EQ actually is.
None of these papers actually describes what "YXQ-EQ" entails. Here are some Methods section screenshots. In none o… https://t.co/i77f2hAyT9— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558648865.0
Finally, Bik managed to track down a paper from 2004 which gives a description of the method.
Here we are, after following a hairball of references, we are finally in the year 2004, at this paper published in… https://t.co/v9H1AdUS35— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558649179.0
Dr. Yan Xin will now reveal how the method works. (hold on to that jaw, folks). https://t.co/agJv0YTjza— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558649385.0
Here is a translation of the scientific language. Here is how YXL-EQ works: Dr. Yan Xin will take the cancer cells… https://t.co/DfiuRNEK2X— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558649525.0
YXQ-EQ is just Dr. Xin taking cancer cells into a secret locked room and doing SOMETHING secret for a while. He claims it has something to do with Qigong, but there's absolutely no way to verify that.
Maybe Dr. Yan Xin has a UV lamp? Or a bottle of bleach? Or a flame torch? I am open to other suggestions too.— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558649651.0
The issue isn't Xin claiming to be harnessing the power of Qi, it's his refusal to share methods that can be replicated or tested, resulting in a far-from-scientific study.
Again, I want to say that I do not want to make fun of traditional Chinese medicine, or about anyone's believe in Q… https://t.co/ku9Lqw4pMY— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558650429.0
Basically Xin claims in his scientific studies that he, and perhaps only he, has the power to use cure cancer, but he can't tell you how or let you watch him do it.
But if one single researcher claims that he - and only he - can use Qi to kill off cancer cells, he should be willi… https://t.co/cTiwrMykYJ— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558650584.0
It's one thing for a (probably crazy) person to claim this. It's another thing for multiple scientific journals to publish this belief after putting his paper through a supposed "peer-review" process.
But what is most bewildering is that there are at least 7 peer reviewed, Pubmed-indexed papers based on this myster… https://t.co/cUD3DDZDUC— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558650874.0
These studies somehow received national funding.
Also note that this work was funded by the @NIH - really? https://t.co/VWmYseXRjr— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558651010.0
This set of papers was brought to me in private by a concerned reader - I did not find them by myself. Not everyon… https://t.co/PNsAM4QEsW— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558651334.0
Several notable scientists attached their name to Xin's studies.
I am also confused that researchers from @Harvard @DanaFarber and @BrighamResearch all put their names on these pap… https://t.co/XUPJ5VJzHt— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558653286.0
Bik reached out to all the publications in question. Some have responded saying they will look into the issues she raised in her thread, others have yet to offer comment.
24h update: I just sent an email to the journal editors and research integrity officers involved in all 6 papers a… https://t.co/EHoPdNTWTE— Elisabeth Bik (@Elisabeth Bik) 1558754249.0
Twitter was grateful to Bik for her hard work digging into the issue!
@MicrobiomDigest I "love" 🙄 papers with sketchy methods. I get patent issues, and not wanting to be scooped, but I… https://t.co/SCIwbfyceT— Dr. HC Playa (@Dr. HC Playa) 1558741189.0
@MicrobiomDigest And yet my paper gets rejected because the reviewer can’t figure out how I converted length and ra… https://t.co/GgCYG9aFpY— Dr. Chelle (@Dr. Chelle) 1558881564.0
@MicrobiomDigest This is incredible! I hope this prompts some sort of response byhe journals in question and the re… https://t.co/GGLISsr0AI— Natalie M-S, PhD (@Natalie M-S, PhD) 1558741627.0
Secret methods go against the very core of scientific research, and should never be allowed in a peer-reviewed paper. It's even more shocking in a federally-funded paper. James Heathers, "a research scientist at Northeastern University known for calling out inconsistencies in scientific data," told Buzzfeed why the issues Bik found were so strange:
"People say funny things on the internet all the time, and some of that is in research and of very little consequence. But if they're doing it on government salary, or if they're doing it at an institution that prides itself on its ability to take science seriously, it's a completely different story."
@MicrobiomDigest I’m speachless!!— Milena Pirozzi, PhD (@Milena Pirozzi, PhD) 1558731181.0
@MicrobiomDigest How in the hell are people still getting away with 'data not shown' in 2019? Much less to suggest… https://t.co/ze4480Rlsc— Anne Ominous - very stable genius (@Anne Ominous - very stable genius) 1558760278.0
Never forget to be skeptical of what you're reading - even in reputable scientific journals! You never know when someone might be trying to pull the wool over your eyes.