A federal investigation into a paper on prostate cancer has now led to a retraction. In an unusual twist, it happened following a request from the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
In January, the Office of Research Integrity reported that corresponding author Dong Xiao “intentionally fabricated data” in an Oncotarget study of how a steroid inhibits the growth of prostate cancer. Xiao, a former cancer researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, claimed that he had tumor data from more mice than he did, and falsified several figures.
In July, after no sign of the retraction, a researcher at PETA followed up with the journal, Oncotarget, on behalf of the organization “and our more than 3 million members and supporters to request the immediate retraction.”
Last month, they received a reply from the publisher, which they forwarded to us:
At Oncotarget we are very serious about any practices that violate research integrity. And after your first letter the paper was immediately withdrawn from online for the investigation.
Our internal investigation has also reached the conclusion about research misconduct and we are preparing the paper for the official retraction. The retraction notice will appear in the the next issue of Oncotarget, issue 30, which will appear online on October 6.
And then the paper will be retracted from PubMed.
We will update you about each step.
Thank you very much for your efforts to maintain the scientific integrity.
The journal posted the retraction note earlier this month for “Guggulsterone inhibits prostate cancer growth via inactivation of Akt regulated by ATP citrate lyase signaling”:
This article has been retracted due to falsified data in Figures 1, 4, 5, S2 and S3 reporting tumor experiments on animals.
The authors sincerely apologize to the scientific community for any confusion or adverse consequences resulting from the publication of this data.
It has not has not been cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
This is not the first time that PETA has played the role of retraction watchdog. In 2011, we reported on a couple cases where they prompted publishers to take action on ORI reports. Justin Goodman, associate director of PETA’s laboratory investigations department, told us in 2011:
Our interest is in getting animals out of labs. One way we do that is by making sure that people who violate guidelines are appropriately sanctioned. That can include retractions and having funding cut off…That’s why we do pursue these cases and we are tenacious.
Hat tip: Tasgola Bruner, PETA Media Manager
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