The urgent need to understand and control COVID-19, and to effectively treat people with the disease, has mobilized global scientific and medical communities like nothing in human history. It has also ushered in a new era in medical publishing. Notably, the desire to share results rapidly, widely and openly has led to an explosion of submissions to the preprint server medRxiv.
But even as the pandemic has demonstrated the potential for rapid, author-driven publication to democratize access and accelerate research, it has exposed the challenges of this model of scholarly communication. With intense public appetite for information about the virus and pandemic, there has been a real danger that individuals and institutions will act hastily on information about risks, mitigation strategies and treatments before it is adequately scrutinized. Such opportunities and challenges, best illustrated during the pandemic, lie ahead as medicine moves towards the goal of providing evidence-based care to patients no matter where they live. This trajectory also opens up real opportunities for speed, transparency and rich evaluation across peer review in medicine.
We are therefore excited to announce that eLife’s reinvigorated Medicine section will offer a whole new approach to publishing in medicine, including public health and health policy. We will apply our system of editorial oversight by practicing clinicians and clinician-investigators, and rigorous, consultative peer review to produce public reviews of preprints with significant potential to impact clinical practice. Our goal is to transform unrefereed manuscripts posted on medRxiv into refereed preprints that provide readers and potential users with a detailed assessment of the science, comments on its potential impact, and perspectives on its use. In essence, by providing rich and rapid evaluation of preprints, we hope that refereed preprints become a currency of trust in medicine.
We will continue to operate like a traditional journal, providing authors who submit their preprints to us with feedback from the reviewers and editors, and we will select a subset of papers for formal publication in eLife. Our scope is broad, covering all areas of the health sciences ranging from cellular and murine models of disease, to human genetics and genomic sciences, to therapeutic discovery, to all phases of clinical investigation, to population health outcomes, to health policy and clinical decision making.
eLife was launched in 2012 by three funders – Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Wellcome Trust and Max Planck Society, later joined by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation – who were eager to take a more active role in promoting best practices in scientific and medical publishing. Founding Editor-in-Chief Randy Schekman focused on improving the culture of peer review, pioneering a consultative approach in which reviewers and editors come together to discuss their assessments, reach a collective decision on whether the strengths of the work merit publication in eLife and which, if any, weaknesses need to be addressed before publication. The authors are then provided with a clear and concise decision letter that is free of the conflicting opinions and recommendations often found in reviews.
Since 2019, with one of us (MBE) as Editor-in-Chief, eLife has moved to embrace and encourage the growth of preprints even more strongly in all areas of science and medicine, and has developed a new concept of 'publish, then review' to serve readers and users, as well as authors (Eisen et al., 2020). This new system of creating public reviews of preprints, described briefly above, is the first major product of these efforts. The re-launch of eLife’s Medicine section is the second.
While eLife has traditionally focused on basic science, many of our editors are practicing clinicians who run research groups that cross the proverbial line between basic and clinical research. We have published papers in early translational research, but over the past few years have received many requests to bring our innovations in peer review and preprint review into the full spectrum of research in medicine.
To answer these calls, and to ensure we do so successfully, we have recruited two Deputy Editors in Medicine (DMH and MZ) and a group of Senior Editors that includes accomplished women and men from around the globe. These Senior Editors in turn have the responsibility of overseeing the review process through our Board of Reviewing Editors, which has also been greatly expanded (and will continue to expand) to include clinicians, public health specialists, and basic, translational and clinical researchers spanning a wide range of disciplines. In building the team, we have emphasized not only clinical expertise, scientific excellence and intellectual breadth, but also equity, diversity and inclusion, in order to ensure that we address patient-centered research for everyone.
The result is an editorial board that can truly aim to cover all areas of modern biology and medicine, with the ability to handle any paper in any discipline, especially those that span and knit together work from fields whose practitioners do not traditionally publish in or read the same journals. For example, we are now well equipped to evaluate all aspects of papers whose topics range from behavioral sciences and social determinants of health to clinical genetics, structural biology, drug discovery and early–stage efficacy studies. We are equally equipped to handle papers describing new COVID-19 virus mutations, their coverage by vaccines, and modeling future infections in different population settings.
In keeping with our desire to tackle the most difficult issues in publishing, we have also created a new Ethics Committee – a think tank of ethicists and individuals with long-standing experience in different aspects of science, medicine and publishing – to provide guidance on issues including, but not limited to, publishing, medical and animal ethics, biosecurity and biosafety, environmental justice, competing interests, data availability, and issues surrounding studies with minority populations in the developing world. These issues are of growing importance across both biology and medicine.
Over the past few years we have received many requests to bring our innovations in peer review and preprint review into the full spectrum of research in medicine.
We are also aware that the pipeline for the young physician-scientist is extremely leaky with most medical graduates who enter science being drawn into private medicine, whether or not they obtained a doctoral degree (Williams et al., 2018). We will leverage eLife’s expanded Medicine section to assist the careers of both laboratory-based physician-scientists and physicians whose interests lie in clinical investigation and health services research. In addition, we will encourage the STEM pipeline of women and underrepresented minorities in physician-scientist roles. eLife already has a program to encourage early-career researchers in all fields to become involved in the peer-review process, and we will also test novel processes for the mentorship, sponsorship and professional advancement of junior physician-scientists.
In all, eLife's ambitions in medicine are broader than just becoming a new open-access medical journal. This is a larger effort underscoring a cultural change to emphasize the importance of preprints and reviewing preprints; to focus on transparency, not just on open access but also on open data and open methods; and to encourage responsible behaviors in medical publishing – elements that are necessary for the translation of meaningful scientific investigation to the betterment of human health. Towards this aspiration, eLife’s reinvigorated Medicine section will cherish the support of the physician–scientist community around the globe.
We have previously shown that the long non-coding (lnc)RNA prostate cancer associated 3 (PCA3; formerly prostate cancer antigen 3) functions as a trans-dominant negative oncogene by targeting the previously unrecognized prostate cancer suppressor gene PRUNE2 (a homolog of the Drosophila prune gene), thereby forming a functional unit within a unique allelic locus in human cells. Here, we investigated the PCA3/PRUNE2 regulatory axis from early (tumorigenic) to late (biochemical recurrence) genetic events during human prostate cancer progression.
The reciprocal PCA3 and PRUNE2 gene expression relationship in paired prostate cancer and adjacent normal prostate was analyzed in two independent retrospective cohorts of clinically annotated cases post-radical prostatectomy: a single-institutional discovery cohort (n=107) and a multi-institutional validation cohort (n=497). We compared the tumor gene expression of PCA3 and PRUNE2 to their corresponding expression in the normal prostate. We also serially examined clinical/pathological variables including time to disease recurrence.
We consistently observed increased expression of PCA3 and decreased expression of PRUNE2 in prostate cancer compared with the adjacent normal prostate across all tumor grades and stages. However, there was no association between the relative gene expression levels of PCA3 or PRUNE2 and time to disease recurrence, independent of tumor grades and stages.
We concluded that upregulation of the lncRNA PCA3 and targeted downregulation of the protein-coding PRUNE2 gene in prostate cancer could be early (rather than late) molecular events in the progression of human prostate tumorigenesis but are not associated with biochemical recurrence. Further studies of PCA3/PRUNE2 dysregulation are warranted.
We received support from the Human Tissue Repository and Tissue Analysis Shared Resource from the Department of Pathology of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a pilot award from the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center. RP and WA were supported by awards from the Levy-Longenbaugh Donor-Advised Fund and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. EDN reports research fellowship support from the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), Brazil, and the Associação Beneficente Alzira Denise Hertzog Silva (ABADHS), Brazil. This work has been funded in part by the NCI Cancer Center Support Grants (CCSG; P30) to the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center (CA118100) and the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CA072720).
Background: In this international multicenter study we aimed to determine the independent risk factors associated with increased 30-day mortality and the impact of cancer and novel treatment modalities in a large group of patients with and without cancer with COVID-19 from multiple countries.
Methods: We retrospectively collected de-identified data on a cohort of patients with and without cancer diagnosed with COVID-19 between January and November 2020, from 16 international centers.
Results: We analyzed 3966 COVID-19 confirmed patients, 1115 with cancer and 2851 nwithout cancer patients. Patients with cancer were more likely to be pancytopenic, and have a smoking history, pulmonary disorders, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and corticosteroid use in the preceding two weeks (p≤0.01). In addition, they were more likely to present with higher inflammatory biomarkers (D-dimer, ferritin and procalcitonin), but were less likely to present with clinical symptoms (p≤0.01). By country-adjusted multivariable logistic regression analyses, cancer was not found to be an independent risk factor for 30-day mortality (p=0.18) whereas lymphopenia was independently associated with increased mortality in all patients, and in patients with cancer. Older age (≥65 years) was the strongest predictor of 30-day mortality in all patients(OR=4.47, p<0.0001). Remdesivir was the only therapeutic agent independently associated with decreased 30-day mortality ()(OR=0.64, p=0.036). Among patients on low-flow oxygen at admission, patients who received remdesivir had a lower 30-day mortality rate than those who did not (5.9% vs 17.6%; p=0.03).
Conclusions: Increased 30-day all-cause mortality from COVID-19 was not independently associated with cancer but was independently associated with lymphopenia often observed in hematolgic malignancy. Remdesivir, particularly in patients with cancer receiving low-flow oxygen, can reduce 30-day all-cause mortality.
Funding: National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health.