Papers on potential cancer drugs retracted for image manipulation
The retraction notices for “PM02734 (Elisidepsin) Induces Caspase-Independent Cell Death Associated with Features of Autophagy, Inhibition of the Akt/mTOR Signaling Pathway, and Activation of Death-Associated Protein Kinase” and “The Phosphatase Inhibitor Menadione (Vitamin K3) Protects Cells from EGFR Inhibition by Erlotinib and Cetuximab” say the same thing:
After an unidentified concerned reader made allegations of image mishandling in several figures, the authors requested that their medical school conduct an investigation as per its established protocol. The investigators concluded that there was enhancement of bands in some of the questioned figures and that the changes were subtle and seen only on special analysis. One of the coauthors, who since has returned to his home country, accepted full responsibility for the changes. He never mentioned the enhancements to any of the authors before manuscript submission. In no case would the conclusions from the experiments have been different if no alterations had been made. Independent repetition of key experiments by another senior investigator showed reproducibility of the major findings. In view of the reproducibility of the original data by a third party, the authors continue to stand by the conclusions of the article. However, because the submission did not meet the standards for manuscript submission to Clinical Cancer Research as described in the Instructions to Authors, the authors voluntarily retract this article. The authors apologize to the readers for the inconvenience that this oversight may have caused.
The menadione paper has been cited 5 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, while the elisidepsin stud has been cited 15.
Roman Perez-Soler, who is first author on one of the papers and last author on the other, tells Retraction Watch that Yi-He Ling is the coauthor “who since has returned to his home country” and “accepted full responsibility for the changes.”
Both papers were funded by NIH grants, and Perez-Soler said the case had been referred to the Office of Research Integrity.
The menadione paper was also funded by Talon Therapeutics, the company developing the compound. PharmaMar, part of drug company Zeltia, funded part of the elisidepsin study. The company stopped development of elisidepsin (Irvalec) last year, saying the market wouldn’t be large enough.