The group’s work became the focus of expressions of concern from the Journal of Clinical Oncology this spring and in 2010.
The article, “Epigenetic regulation of Wnt-signaling pathway in acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” purported to show “a role of abnormal Wnt signaling in ALL and establish a group of patients with a significantly worse prognosis (methylated group)” and earned a commentary on the significance of the findings.
But as the notice explains, the first author lifted and manipulated a figure from a previously published article:
The authors wish to retract the 15 April 2007 paper cited above, prepublished on 5 December 2006. Figure 2A in the original manuscript was inappropriately reproduced from a previously published paper, namely Battagli C, Uzzo RG, Dulaimi E, Ibanez de Caceres I, Krassenstein R, Al-Saleem T, Greenberg RE, Cairns P. Promoter hypermethylation of tumor suppressor genes in urine from kidney cancer patients. Cancer Res. 2003;63(24):8695-8699. The image was provided by Dr. Román-Gómez who was the author solely responsible for manipulation of the figure. None of the other authors were involved in or were aware of these events. The rest of the results and the conclusions of the manuscript are correct, however the article is retracted as a whole. The authors deeply regret this event and apologize to the readers, reviewers, and editors for publishing this image.
Here’s the figure in question.
The paper has been cited 91 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Cynthia Dunbar, editor of Blood, said (Jose) Román-Gómez was a familiar name to the journal:
This author has done this once before. We retracted another paper a few years ago. The institution and other senior authors went through all the papers that involved this author and notified us. Very hard to detect when steal from random other papers! But as far as we can tell at BLOOD this is the end of it.
The first retraction appeared in 2009 — before Retraction Watch was born — and referred to a 2004 paper, “Promoter hypermethylation of cancer-related genes: a strong independent prognostic factor in acute lymphoblastic leukemia”:
The authors retract the October 15, 2004, paper cited above. Figure 1 in that paper was inappropriately reproduced from a previously published paper, namely Dong SM, Kim HS, Rha SH, Sidransky D. Promoter hypermethylation of multiple genes in carcinoma of the uterine cervix. Clin Cancer Res. 2001;7:1982–1986.
We found 58 citations on Medline for Román-Gómez, whose webpage at University Hospital of Cordoba lists his major accomplishments as having
discovered the role of the epigenetic silencing of cancer-related genes and microRNAs in the pathogenesis and prognosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and the role of the retrotransposable elements hypomethylation in the progression of hematological malignancies.
We’ve tried contacting Román-Gómez for comment, and will update with anything we hear back.