Five retractions for cancer research team for manipulated figures
The International Journal of Cancer, a Wiley title, has retracted a pair of articles from a group at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, for image manipulation.
The first was titled “Aberrant methylation of Reprimo in human malignancies.” According to the retraction notice:
The following article from International Journal of Cancer, “Aberrant Methylation of Reprimo in Human Malignancies” by Takao Takahashi, Makoto Suzuki, Hisayuki Shigematsu, Narayan Shivapurkar, Chinyere Echebiri, Masaharu Nomura, Victor Stastny, Meena Augustus, Chew-Wun Wu, Ignacio I. Wistuba, Stephen J. Meltzer, and Adi F. Gazdar, published online on 7 February 2005 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor in Chief, Professor Peter Lichter and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. The retraction has been agreed due to presentation of an improperly manipulated figure (Figure 1A, page 506) in the article.
The work has been cited 41 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. It also caught the attention of Science News, which wrote a story about the findings.
The second article, which appeared about six months later, was titled “Aberrant promoter methylation of multiple genes during multistep pathogenesis of colorectal cancers.” Again:
The following article from International Journal of Cancer “Aberrant promoter methylation of multiple genes during multistep pathogenesis of colorectal cancers” by Takao Takahashi, Hisayuki Shigematsu, Narayan Shivapurkar, Jyotsna Reddy, Yingye Zheng, Ziding Feng, Makoto Suzuki, Masaharu Nomura, Meena Augustus, Jing Yin, Stephen J. Meltzer and Adi F. Gazdar, published online in February 2006 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor in Chief, Professor Peter Lichter and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. The retraction has been agreed due to manipulation of Figure 1A and Figure 2A (page 926).
The paper has been cited 23 times.
We’ve asked Gazdar for comment, and will update with anything we learn.
Update, 3:30 p.m. Eastern, 11/23/12: We spoke with Gazdar, who filled in some blanks for us. He said the papers came to the attention of UT officials when a figure turned up in the work of a Spanish investigator named José Román-Gómez, whom we covered back in April (see this comment from “amw” putting some pieces together). According to Gazdar, investigators identified problems with the plagiarized image — problems
they dismissed as inconsequential but which which prompted him to conduct his own inquiry.
The internal review committee
had not reached a conclusion as to whether it was accidental or deliberate and were mulling over whether to launch a further investigation when I decided to launch my own investigation. Based on my findings they launched their own investigation that confirmed my findings. They also investigated an unstated number of randomly selected publications of mine to determine that similar occurrences were not present in manuscripts not coauthored by Takao Takahashi. Presumably they found no evidence as there was no further mention.
(Gazdar stressed that Takao Takahashi should not be confused with another occasional co-author of his, Tak Takahashi.)
Gazdar said he eventually reviewed nearly 20 papers, identifying five that had suspect images. Takao Takahashi — the first author on the two retracted articles listed above, who now works in Japan —
acknowledged manipulating images in accepted “sole responsibility” for four of the articles, Gazdar said, but denied doing so refused to do so for a fifth. Another former post-doc “accepted responsibility” for the last paper, Gazdar said. but did not acknowledge Neither researcher has acknowledged wrongdoing.
In addition to the two retractions in the International Journal of Cancer, a third paper by Takahashi has been retracted, from Anticancer Research. The notice is behind a paywall — tsk, tsk. Here it is:
The article entitled: “Aberrant methylation to heparan sulfate glucosamine 3-O-sulfotransferase 2 genes as a biomarker in colorectal cancer” by Tokuyama Y, Takahashi T, Okumura N, Nonaka K, Kawaguchi Y, Yamaguchi K, Osada S, Gazdar A and Yoshida K, published in Anticancer Research, 2010, 30(12): pp. 4811-4818 is retracted.
This action, requested by the authors, is based on the findings and recommendations of an Internal Review Committee at the University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, TX, USA, as the GAPDH loading control in Figure 1A of the article (p.4813) appears to be a modified version of a figure previously published elsewhere.
Gazdar said he has requested the retraction of two more articles, including this one from the British Journal of Cancer and one, which we’re not sure about, from Clinical Cancer Research.
Gazdar — who by all accounts is going above and beyond what many in his position might have — said he reported the image problems to the Office of Research Integrity “months ago” but has not heard anything about an investigation. The agency would neither confirm nor deny an inquiry when we asked about it today.
We’ve updated the headline of this post to reflect all five retractions.
Update 2:10 p.m Eastern, 11/26/12: This post has been updated to include corrections and additional information from Adi Gazdar.