Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

A researcher sued critics of his work. Now he has 13 retractions.

with 8 comments

Fazlul Sarkar

Fazlul Sarkar

A cancer researcher who sued PubPeer commenters for criticizing his work has lost six more papers, bringing his total to 13 retractions. 

Four of the new retraction notices issued by the journal Cancer cite an investigation at Wayne State University in Michigan into the work of Fazlul Sarkar and some of his colleagues. All the new notices, including the other two in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, are for image-related issues.

Retraction Watch readers will recognize the name Fazlul Sarkar, who took PubPeer to court to unmask the anonymous critics whose comments cost him a job at the University of Mississippi. According to this document, Sarkar retired from Wayne State this year.  

Here’s the first of the four Cancer retraction notices, all of which were issued on July 29:

Retraction: “Response to dual blockade of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and cyclooxygenase-2 in nonsmall cell lung cancer may be dependent on the EGFR mutational status of the tumor” by Gadgeel SM, Ali S, Philip PA, Ahmed F, Wozniak A, Sarkar FH.

The above article, published in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been retracted by agreement amongst the journal Editor in Chief, Fadlo R. Khuri; Wiley Periodicals, Inc.; and the American Cancer Society following an investigation by Wayne State University into the research activities of the second and last authors. The investigation found that masking and other manipulations altered the appearance of certain Western blots published in Figure 1A beyond “cosmetic” changes, and that these alterations changed the results. The investigation further found that there was masking in p-EGFR bands of the H3255 cells in Figure 5A, and found no evidence that the “data” published as non-expressed COX-2 and Akt in the H1650 cells in Figures 5A and 5B are anything other than plain gray boxes. The investigation committee concluded that this undermined the scientific basis of the publication, that no credible replacement data were available, and advised that the publication should be retracted.

The 2007 paper has been cited 55 times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

Next, here’s the retraction notice for a 2006 paper, which has accumulated 161 citations:

Retraction: “Cisplatin-induced antitumor activity is potentiated by the soy isoflavonen genistein in BxPC-3 pancreatic tumor xenografts” by Mohammad RM, Banerjee S, Li Y, Aboukameel A, Kucuk O, Sarkar FH.

The above article, published in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been retracted by agreement amongst the journal Editor in Chief, Fadlo R. Khuri; Wiley Periodicals, Inc.; and the American Cancer Society following an investigation by Wayne State University into the research activities of the second and last authors. The investigation found clear evidence that the 4-lane Rb bands for Figure 3A and Figure 4C are duplicated, manipulated, and re-labeled Rb bands. The investigation found no evidence that the 4-lane Rb bands correspond to the assays above them. The investigation further found that the 4-lane β-actin bands image in Figure 3B is a manipulated and re-labeled copy of the same β-actin bands image in Figure 5A of Int J Cancer. 2006 Apr 15;118(8):1930-6. The investigation committee concluded that this undermined the scientific basis of the publication, that no credible replacement data were available, and advised that the publication should be retracted.

And here’s the retraction notice for another 2006 paper, which has garnered 45 citations:

Retraction: “Notch-1 down-regulation by curcumin is associated with the inhibition of cell growth and the induction of apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells” by Wang Z, Zhang Y, Banerjee S, Li Y, Sarkar FH.

The above article, published in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been retracted by agreement amongst the journal Editor in Chief, Fadlo R. Khuri; Wiley Periodicals, Inc.; and the American Cancer Society following an investigation by Wayne State University into the research activities of the first and last authors. The investigation found clear evidence that the 4-lane Rb bands for Figures 4A, 4B, 5D, and 6D are duplicated and manipulated and re-labeled. The investigation further found no evidence that the 4-lane Rb bands correspond to the assays above them. In addition, the investigation found clear evidence that the 2-lane Rb bands for Figure 4C are duplicated and manipulated and re-labeled Rb bands. The investigation further found no evidence that the 2-lane Rb bands correspond to the “supershift” assays they accompany. There is no evidence that these loading control assays were run at all. The investigation also found that the b-actin bands image in Figure 3D and 5A are re-labeled and manipulated copies of the b-actin bands image in Figure 3C of Int J Cancer. 2006 Apr 15;118(8):1930-6. Finally, the investigation found that the b-actin bands image in Figure 6A is a re-labeled and manipulated copy of Figure 3A of Int J Cancer. 2006 Apr 15;118(8):1930-6, representing two very different experiments. The investigation committee concluded that this undermined the scientific basis of the publication, that no credible replacement data were available, and advised that the publication should be retracted.

Finally, here’s the retraction notice for a 2009 paper that has been cited 20 times so far:

Retraction: “Genistein enhances the effect of epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors and inhibits nuclear factor kappa B in nonsmall cell lung cancer cell lines” by Gadgeel SM, Ali S, Philip PA, Wozniak A, Sarkar FH.

The above article, published in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been retracted by agreement amongst the journal Editor in Chief, Fadlo R. Khuri; Wiley Periodicals, Inc.; and the American Cancer Society following an investigation by Wayne State University into the research activities of the second and last authors. The investigation found that the Western blot images of Figures 4A, 4B, and 4C were re-ordered and manipulated to misrepresent the results. The investigation committee concluded that this undermined the scientific basis of the publication, that no credible replacement data were available, and advised that the publication should be retracted.

Next, let’s take a look at the new retractions in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, which were posted on July 13.

First is a 2010 paper,“Platelet-derived growth factor-D contributes to aggressiveness of breast cancer cells by up-regulating Notch and NF-κB signaling pathways,” which has been cited 33 times. Here is its retraction notice:

The paper is retracted at the request of the publisher because blots of Figs. 3c and 5a were manipulated and compiled from different films without explanation.

And here’s the retraction notice for “FoxM1 down-regulation leads to inhibition of proliferation, migration and invasion of breast cancer cells through the modulation of extra-cellular matrix degrading factors:”

The paper is retracted at the request of the publisher because in Figs. 5a and 5b, and 6c micrograph images are re-used and re-labeled to represent different conditions.

This 2009 paper has been cited 84 times.

By our count, Sarkar has also issued 12 corrections.

In 2015, a judge dismissed Sarkar’s lawsuit against the University of Mississippi for rescinding its job offer based on the anonymous PubPeer comments. After Sarkar subpoenaed PubPeer to reveal the names of the anonymous commenters, a court ruled that PubPeer could keep all but one commenter anonymous. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing PubPeer, has appealed that decision (and earned the support of Google, Twitter, and some other heavy hitters). 

A Wayne State spokesperson declined to reveal details of their probe or share the investigation report, citing confidentiality. The spokesperson confirmed, nevertheless, that Sarkar has retired.

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Comments
  • PJTV August 4, 2016 at 5:36 am

    Some 200 citations were made to publications where “The investigation committee concluded that this undermined the scientific basis of the publication”. This raises the question – again undoubtedly – how to follow up on these works that use the retracted work as reference. At least the citing authors could be informed.

  • Roobaker August 4, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    “The spokesperson confirmed, nevertheless, that Sarkar has retired”…….and apparently resurfaced at the University of Malaya. A Public university in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    https://umexpert.um.edu.my/fsarkar

  • fernandopessoa August 18, 2016 at 4:30 am

    2016 retraction 2006 FH Sarkar paper.

    Int J Cancer. 2006 Apr 15;118(8):1930-6.
    Inhibition of nuclear factor kappab activity by genistein is mediated via Notch-1 signaling pathway in pancreatic cancer cells.
    Wang Z1, Zhang Y, Banerjee S, Li Y, Sarkar FH.
    Author information
    1Department of Pathology, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.

    Pubppeer:https://pubpeer.com/publications/16284950

    2016 retraction notice.
    10.1002/ijc.21589/full” target=”_blank”>http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.21589/full

    This article has been retracted at the request of: Editor-in-Chief and Author

    ‘Inhibition of nuclear factor κb activity by genistein is mediated via Notch-1 signaling pathway in pancreatic cancer cells’, by Wang, Z., Zhang, Y., Banerjee, S., Li, Y. and Sarkar, F. H.

    The above article and associated erratum, published online on 11 November 2005 and 6 February 2014, respectively, in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), have been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor-in-Chief, Professor Peter Lichter, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. In addition to what was corrected in the erratum, a university investigation involving the first and the corresponding author determined that several figures in this paper were re-used, mislabeled, manipulated, or duplicated while processing/compiling the final figures assembled from the original data sources. Therefore, the authors are retracting the paper in its entirety although they maintain that these issues did not affect the major conclusions. They apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

    Reference

    Wang, Z., Zhang, Y., Banerjee, S., Li, Y. and Sarkar, F. H. (2006), Inhibition of nuclear factor κb activity by genistein is mediated via Notch-1 signaling pathway in pancreatic cancer cells. Int. J. Cancer, 118:1930–1936. doi:10.1002/ijc.21589; corrected by Erratum: Inhibition of nuclear factor κb activity by genistein is mediated via Notch-1 signaling pathway in pancreatic cancer cells. Int. J. Cancer, 134: E3. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28709.

  • fernandopessoa August 18, 2016 at 4:33 am

    2016 retraction second 2006 FH Sarkar paper.

    Int J Cancer. 2006 Nov 1;119(9):2071-7.
    Down-regulation of Jagged-1 induces cell growth inhibition and S phase arrest in prostate cancer cells.
    Zhang Y1, Wang Z, Ahmed F, Banerjee S, Li Y, Sarkar FH.
    Author information
    1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Capital University of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China.

    Pubpeer: https://pubpeer.com/publications/16823852

    2016 retraction.
    10.1002/ijc.22077/full” target=”_blank”>http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.22077/full

    This article has been retracted at the request of: Editor-in-Chief and Co-author

    ‘Down-regulation of Jagged-1 induces cell growth inhibition and S phase arrest in prostate cancer cells’ by Zhang, Y., Wang, Z., Ahmed, F., Banerjee, S., Li, Y. and Sarkar, F. H.

    The above article, published online on 5 July 2006, in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor-in-Chief, Professor Peter Lichter, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. A university investigation involving the second and the corresponding author determined that histone bands in Fig. 4 in this paper were manipulated and that β-actin bands in Fig. 1C were duplicated from another publication. Therefore, the authors are retracting the paper in its entirety although they maintain that these issues did not affect the major conclusions. They apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

    Reference

    Zhang, Y., Wang, Z., Ahmed, F., Banerjee, S., Li, Y. and Sarkar, F. H. (2006), Down-regulation of Jagged-1 induces cell growth inhibition and S phase arrest in prostate cancer cells. Int. J. Cancer, 119: 2071–2077. doi: 10.1002/ijc.22077

  • fernandopessoa August 18, 2016 at 4:36 am

    Retraction third 2006 FH Sarkar paper.

    Int J Cancer. 2007 Feb 15;120(4):906-17.
    In vitro and in vivo molecular evidence of genistein action in augmenting the efficacy of cisplatin in pancreatic cancer.
    Banerjee S1, Zhang Y, Wang Z, Che M, Chiao PJ, Abbruzzese JL, Sarkar FH.
    Author information
    1Department of Pathology, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.

    Pubpeer: https://pubpeer.com/publications/17131310

    2016 retraction.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.30269/full

    This article has been retracted at the request of: Editor-in-Chief and Author

    ‘In vitro and in vivo molecular evidence of genistein action in augmenting the efficacy of cisplatin in pancreatic cancer’ by Banerjee, S., Zhang, Y., Wang, Z., Che, M., Chiao, P. J., Abbruzzese, J. L. and Sarkar, F. H.

    The above article and associated erratum, published online on 27 November 2006 and 6 February 2014, respectively, in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), have been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor-in-Chief, Professor Peter Lichter, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. A university investigation involving the first and the corresponding author determined that several figures in this paper, including the b-actin bands in Fig. 1C in the erratum, were re-used, mislabeled, manipulated, or duplicated while processing/compiling the final figures assembled from the original data sources. Therefore, the authors are retracting the paper in its entirety although they maintain that these issues did not affect the major conclusions. They apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

    ReferenceBanerjee, S., Zhang, Y., Wang, Z., Che, M., Chiao, P. J., Abbruzzese, J. L. and Sarkar, F. H. (2007), In vitro and in vivo molecular evidence of genistein action in augmenting the efficacy of cisplatin in pancreatic cancer. Int. J. Cancer, 120: 906–917. doi: 10.1002/ijc.22332; corrected by Erratum: In vitro and in vivo molecular evidence of genistein action in augmenting the efficacy of cisplatin in pancreatic cancer. Int. J. Cancer, 134: E4. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28710.

  • fernandopessoa August 18, 2016 at 4:42 am

    2016 retraction 2008 FH Sarkar paper.

    Int J Cancer. 2008 Aug 15;123(4):958-66. doi: 10.1002/ijc.23610.
    TW-37, a small-molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2, inhibits cell growth and invasion in pancreatic cancer.
    Wang Z1, Song W, Aboukameel A, Mohammad M, Wang G, Banerjee S, Kong D, Wang S, Sarkar FH, Mohammad RM.
    Author information
    1Department of Pathology, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.

    Pubpeer: https://pubpeer.com/publications/18528859

    2016 rectraction.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.23610/full

    Errata: Retraction Volume 139, Issue 9, 2146, Article first published online: 18 August 2016
    † Conflict of Interest: University of Michigan has filed a patent on TW-37, which has been licensed by Ascenta Therapeutics Inc. University of Michigan and Dr. Shaomeng Wang own equity in Ascenta. Dr. Shaomeng Wang also serves as a consultant for Ascenta and is the principal investigator on research contract from Ascenta to University of Michigan.
    Abstract

    This article has been retracted at the request of: Editor-in-Chief and Author

    ‘TW-37, a small-molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2, inhibits cell growth and invasion in pancreatic cancer’ by Wang, Z., Song, W., Aboukameel, A., Mohammad, M., Wang, G., Banerjee, S., Kong, D., Wang, S., Sarkar, F. H. and Mohammad, R. M.

    The above article, published online on 4 June 2008, in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor-in-Chief, Professor Peter Lichter, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. A university investigation involving the first and the second-to-last author determined that several figures from another published paper were manipulated or duplicated and re-used in this paper. Therefore, the authors are retracting the paper in its entirety although they maintain that these issues did not affect the major conclusions. They apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

    Reference

    Wang, Z., Song, W., Aboukameel, A., Mohammad, M., Wang, G., Banerjee, S., Kong, D., Wang, S., Sarkar, F. H. and Mohammad, R. M. (2008), TW-37, a small-molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2, inhibits cell growth and invasion in pancreatic cancer. Int. J. Cancer, 123: 958–966. doi: 10.1002/ijc.23610

  • fernandopessoa August 18, 2016 at 4:46 am

    2016 retraction.

    Int J Cancer. 2011 Mar 1;128(5):1240-50. doi: 10.1002/ijc.25658. Epub 2010 Nov 16.
    Restoring sensitivity to oxaliplatin by a novel approach in gemcitabine-resistant pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and in vivo.
    Banerjee S1, Kong D, Azmi AS, Wang Z, Ahmad A, Sethi S, Sarkar FH.
    Author information
    1Department of Pathology, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA.

    2016 retraction notice.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.30271/full

    This article has been retracted at the request of: Editor-in-Chief and Co-author

    ‘Restoring sensitivity to oxaliplatin by a novel approach in gemcitabine-resistant pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and in vivo’ by Banerjee, S., Kong, D., Azmi, A. S., Wang, Z., Ahmad, A., Sethi, S. and Sarkar, F. H.

    The above article, published online on 16 November 2010, in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editor-in-Chief, Professor Peter Lichter, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. A university investigation involving the first and corresponding author determined that several figures in this paper were mislabeled, manipulated, or duplicated and relabeled while processing/compiling the final figures assembled from the original data sources. Therefore, the authors are retracting the paper in its entirety although they maintain that these issues did not affect the major conclusions. They apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

    Reference

    Banerjee, S., Kong, D., Azmi, A. S., Wang, Z., Ahmad, A., Sethi, S. and Sarkar, F. H. (2011), Restoring sensitivity to oxaliplatin by a novel approach in gemcitabine-resistant pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Int. J. Cancer, 128: 1240–1250. doi: 10.1002/ijc.25658

  • fernandopessoa August 18, 2016 at 6:56 am

    13 plus 5 retractions in Int J Cancer =18.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.v139.9/issuetoc

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