Letter to Dr. Khuri


I confirm that in the period 1994 through 1996, I published 2 articles in the Polish language in 2 Polish regional journals, Nowotwory[1] and Polski Przeglad Chirurgiczny,[2] on the results of the neurosurgical treatment of brain metastases. The journals in question have a very limited circulation and are relatively unknown outside of Poland.

After this, I published 2 more comprehensive articles in Cancer[3, 4] that I based on approximately the same set of research results. I deeply regret the breach of the publishing guidelines and the resulting violation of ethics principles. At the same time, I view what happened as “lessons learned,” which I believe would be of value to share.

The articles in question are based on my research conducted as a Research Fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where I worked for 7 years. When, having arrived from the communist-ruled Poland as a young medical practitioner and scientist, I realized the importance of my research results in prolonging the lives of patients with cancer, my priority was to disseminate my findings urgently to the medical profession. Although publication in Cancer was highly appropriate for the maximum diffusion of innovative medical techniques in developed countries, I was aware that news of the breakthrough would not reach my home country. In those years, there was no Internet in Poland; the majority of the medical libraries did not subscribe to international medical journals; and, in addition, very few Polish physicians were able to read English.

It was also a time when nearly all Polish patients with brain metastases were unsuccessfully treated with whole-brain radiotherapy or were not treated at all. I knew it was my moral obligation to inform the Polish medical practitioners that their patients had a chance of longer survival when first sent for neurosurgical consultation, because this could lead to successful neurosurgical resection. With a desire to fulfill my duty as a physician, I published the results in a simplified form aimed at physicians in Poland, and especially at the regions away from the major research institutions. It took me several more years to prepare the articles for Cancer due to the different style, purpose, and audience they were intended for.

It is true that I failed to mention in my English articles submitted to Cancer that I reused some of the data previously published in Polish. This happened partly due to my oversight, but also because of my inexperience in trying to combine my duties as a physician and a scientist. I wrote the English articles as much larger in scope and containing comprehensive analyses of the full sets of results. These were not direct translations of the Polish studies. Their content was different, and the audience for whom they were intended was different. Due to my inexperience in scientific publishing, I did not realize it was necessary to refer to the preliminary Polish articles in the expanded articles I wrote for the English-speaking oncologists.

Today, I am sorry for this breach of publication ethics. I hope you will take into consideration my motivation for better patient care in my native country. The data I prepared in each article are accurate and carefully analyzed; there is no scientific fraud involved. The publications in the Polish journals contain a more preliminary analysis that presents the findings in simplified form, but which I hoped would still be sufficient to have an immediate impact on the care of patients with cancer. The implications for patient survival are very important, and I still believe that the findings deserve to be as widely disseminated as possible.

In view of these considerations, I hope that you will issue a correction to these 2 articles published in Cancer rather than a complete retraction, which would be a disservice to the oncology community and to our patients.


The author made no disclosures.

  • Marek Wronski, MD, PhD

  • Warsaw, Poland