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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Herbicide-ovarian cancer study to be retracted

with 7 comments

ehpThe authors of a 2008 study purporting to explain how the herbicide atrazine acts on cancer cells have asked the journal that published it to retract it for “inadvertent errors,” Retraction Watch has learned.

The notice for “G-Protein-Coupled Receptor 30 and Estrogen Receptor-a are Involved in the Proliferative Effects Induced by Atrazine in Ovarian Cancer Cells,” published in Environmental Health Perspectives, will read:

The Authors discovered that inadvertent errors occurred in sorting the files related to the presentation of the Western blots in Figures 6 and 8 and requested that their paper be retracted. The authors stand by the soundness of the study, and have advised the Editor of their intention to submit an amended manuscript, which incorporates appropriate changes, for consideration for publication in a future issue of the Journal. The Authors apologize for any inconvenience caused.

The original study concluded:

Our results indicate a novel mechanism through which atrazine may exert relevant biological effects in cancer cells. On the basis of the present data, atrazine should be included among the environmental contaminants potentially able to signal via GPR30 in eliciting estrogenic action.

The paper has been cited 47 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. The state of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment also refers to it.

It was apparently the pseudonymous Clare Francis — the person who some editors claim wastes their time — who called the troublesome images to the journal’s attention. We’ve asked corresponding author Marcello Maggiolini for comment, and will update with anything we learn.

Update, 11:30 a.m. Eastern: Maggiolini tells us that no other papers will be affected. PubPeer commenters have raised questions about four other papers.

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7 Responses

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  1. There’s no middle ground. You either support Clare Francis or you support scientific misconduct.

    Neuroskeptic (@Neuro_Skeptic)

    December 12, 2013 at 9:48 am

    • Elsevier has been critical of some of Clare Francis’s methods, so based on your logic, what would that say about Elsevier’s position on scientific misconduct?


      December 14, 2013 at 11:45 pm

  2. Marcello Maggiolini is also mentioned in these Pubpeer comments.

    It is important to check them out.





    For general information: Marcello Maggiolini (the addresses tally) is on the scientific committee of the AIRC (Italian assciation for cancer research).

    Third up from the bottom on the left.


    david hardman

    December 12, 2013 at 11:32 am

  3. Language very like that used for the Herbicide-ovarian cancer study

    in a 3rd of Ocober 2013 erratum for Blood. 2000 Mar 15;95(6):2084-92.


    “On pages 2086 and 2089 in the 15 March 2000 issue, there are errors in Figure 1 and Figure 5. Inaccuracies in Figure 1A and Figure 5 originated from mistakes made inadvertently during the “cut and assembly” phase of Western blot images preparation. Repeated experiments, shown in the figures below, confirmed the original results. The corrected Figure 1 and Figure 5 and their revised legends are shown.”

    A geometric analysis of the erratum has been published in the German magazine “Laborjournal”.


    david hardman

    December 12, 2013 at 11:57 am

    • Assembling a figure for publication seems to be one of the hardest things that a scientist must do. They err so easily, whether PhD students, postdocs or professors.

      In fact: inadvertent, the word alas used, means 1 not full attentive 2 marked by unintentional lack of care, and inadvertently is given as a synonym of carelessness – but no one uses that because it “often implies negligence” whereas inadvertent indicates, well, unintentional lack of care.

      Yes, it is an euphenism and it is annoying how editors tolerate it in lieu of “erronously” which is fairly neutral.


      December 12, 2013 at 3:51 pm

  4. david hardman

    February 1, 2014 at 11:54 am

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