Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Case report journal pulls paper on metastatic ovarian cancer with falsified data

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crmedThe journal Case Reports in Medicine has retracted a 2012 article by a group of Turkish authors who made up things in the piece.

The paper, “Brain Metastasis as an Initial Manifestation of Ovarian Carcinoma: A Case Report,” came from ob-gyns at Hacettepe University in Ankara, and purported to relate the case of

A 30-year-old gravida 2, para 2 woman admitted to our hospital with complaints of headache, nausea, vomiting, and right-sided blurred vision. She did not report any previous medical history or malignancy. Her neurologic examination revealed a right optic disc edema suggesting a posterior orbital mass. Her cranial computerized tomography (CT) scan showed multiple lesions that are a 6 mm mass on the right parietal lobe, a 16 mm mass on the left occipital, and another 7 mm mass on the left temporal lobe (Figures 1 and 2). All the lesions were hyperintense and surrounded by edema which suggests a metastatic cancer. Her cranial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) also confirmed similar findings suggestive of a metastatic cancer to the brain.

Except that, evidently, it did not.

According to the retraction notice:

The paper titled “Brain Metastasis as an Initial Manifestation of Ovarian Carcinoma: A Case Report” [1], published in Case Reports in Medicine, has been retracted as it was found to include falsified data in the pathology report of the patient included.

The paper has yet to be cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

  • Akil Esbrin Ko November 22, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Here is a pickle to whom whats to deal with it…. why is so difficult for some new researchers to publish their own work ? And why, after knowing of these false researchers and problems, many journals and editors allow those misbehavers to continue getting their lies published? What is wrong then?

    I believe the problem, which has many many roots, is not going to resolve because there are not people with power who want to jeopardize their positions in the sake of the truth… one solution would be to stop funding people who publish falsely and ban them for years. Another way wouldbe to have one work of research scrutinized by another expert in such area but from different country (this considering that editors are, ahem, honest).

    I do not know. It is true that research funding is receding and the granters keep funding this kind of work. Just my opinion.

    • Toby White November 23, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      A medical reader may correct me, but the falsification here may have had nothing to do with the authors of the paper. The authors seem to be radiologists who (AFAIK) did their job correctly and accurately reported what they found. However, they necessarily relied on a pathology report which identified an ovarian tumor as primary. The rarity of this combination of brain lesions with a primary ovarian tumor, as well as an unexpectedly favorable medical outcome using a fairly new technique, seems to be what prompted them to write up the case. In any case, there was no research funding involved, according to the disclaimer in the paper.

      • Allison (@DrStelling) November 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm

        Why weren’t the pathologists authors on the paper, if their data was integral to the story?

        • Toby White November 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm

          Why would the pathologist be on the paper for doing what ought to have been fairly routine tests? This is a radiology paper, and only a case report at that. It wasn’t an experiment that anyone designed, but a post-hoc report with some tentative “lessons learned.” The omission of the pathologist didn’t look odd to me, particularly since, in real life, pathology reports may be prepared with very little professional involvement of any kind. But read the (short) paper and decide for yourself. You’re probably better qualified to judge than I am. I just don’t see any reason, from the limited information, to accuse Dr. Tuncer et al. of scientific fraud, or even of carelessness.

          • Allison (@DrStelling) November 24, 2013 at 1:40 pm

            OK, I’ll look through it.

            It’s just that when I was writing my brain tumor paper, I relied quite heavily on the neuropathologist, Dr. KD Geiger. I’d ask the surgeons first, who would tell me to ask the neuroscientist, who in turn would tell me to ask the neuropathologist. Esp. for the biochemical interpretations of my IR data; that’s not trivial to correlate with immunohistochemistry and H&E staining. There’s a reason I listed Dr. Geiger as the co-correspondent author: she’s responsible for the staining and interpretation of what may be happening on a biochemical level, which is integral to my overall narrative.

          • Allison (@DrStelling) November 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm

            Alright. Glancing through it, I would like to see the pathology. This is a pretty rare metastasis (I’ve seen lung, breast, etc in brain tissue; but never ovarian cells)- I’d want to see the foreign cells inside the brain tissue. I don’t read too many case reports though- it’s fairly standard to have tons of staining thrown into the supplemental for large trials. I get the impression these single patient case reports are supposed to be fairly brief manuscripts…?

            Also, this histopathology business is not quite as cut-and-dry as radiology, if you see my meaning. It’s very useful when used wisely, but can have many interpretations since it depends a lot on morphology. This is why I like to put pathologists on as authors. If this were- say- a PCR test a staff tech ran as part of their routine job, you probably list them or their facility under Acknowledgements. Immunohistochemistry is more delicate, and interpretations are not as straightforward as they are in spectroscopy or genetic tests; which is why it may be helpful to the community if they are authors & their data is shown.

            I do agree that, if the authors of the paper are not pathologists and were not responsible for the pathology that appears to have been falsified, they should of course not get accused of anything. It does strike me as a reason to include the histochemistry in the paper and those that did it as authors (or in Acknowledgements).

  • Akil Esbrin Ko November 24, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    That is bogus… Many doctors, in order to look good before their chiefs, include them in their articles as a “courtesy”. And this is so wrong. The author (s) is/are the only accountable entity for his/her/their work. Not because someone helps with the staining needs to be included as the author, except when such person provides an important contribution to final said work. With such logic, why not including the clerk that orders the pizza, the janitor who keeps the place clean? I believe this would not have happened if the main author asked those “co-authors” for their opinion in the case and their possible authorization to be included as authors. The problem is that one person messed it up and therefore many got smeared.

    • Allison (@DrStelling) November 25, 2013 at 7:52 am

      This is why I really like the way a lot of journals are doing “contributions” sections that list out who did what on the paper. Authorship is about recognizing work, but it’s also about taking responsibility for work.

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