Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Researcher pegged for misconduct in 11 papers earns 2nd retraction

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clinical-cancer-researchA cancer journal has retracted a paper by a researcher who doctored data in 11 studies, according to a report by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

According to an investigation report released by the ORI last year, all 11 studies co-authored by Girija Dasmahapatra, formerly based at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, will either be retracted or corrected. In April, Dasmahapatra lost the first of the 11 papers flagged by the ORI in the journal Leukemia. Earlier this month, a second paper from the list was pulled by Clinical Cancer Research.

Dasmahapatra isn’t the only VCU researcher who’s been busy correcting the literature. All 11 papers mentioned in the ORI report list Steven Grant as last author; Paul Dent is a co-author of nine of these studies. Last month, we reported on a retraction in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) and a mega-correction in Molecular Pharmacology issued for papers by Grant and Dent due to problems with images. Neither paper included Dasmahapatra as a co-author.

We’ve also previously reported on four other errata for image-related issues for papers by Dent (one of which lists Grant as a co-author). Now, we’ve come across another correction in JBC for the pair, which was published last month.

First, here’s the new retraction notice from Clinical Cancer Research, which includes Grant and Dent as co-authors:

The article entitled, “Synergistic Interactions between Vorinostat and Sorafenib in Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Cells Involve Mcl-1 and p21CIP1Down-Regulation,” which was published in the July 15, 2007, issue of Clinical Cancer Research [CCR (1)], is being retracted at the request of the AACR Publications Department and the CCR Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor. The AACR Publications Department received a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in which it stated that Girija Dasmahapatra, the first author of the above-mentioned article, engaged in research misconduct by “falsifying and/or fabricating data” that appeared in the 2007 article. ORI provided the editors with image analyses for Fig. 3B (PARP) and Fig. 6A (Tubulin). An excerpt of the response from ORI regarding the analyses is as follows:

“The analysis would show that the Western blots were falsely relabeled and re-used in multiple publications to represent the results of experiments with different cell lines under different conditions/treatments. In some instances, the original data for the reported experiments do not exist, and in other instances, control blots were not run and were substituted indiscriminately from other experiments, regardless of the cell line or conditions/treatments used.”

The matter was reviewed by members of the AACR Publications staff and the CCR editors, who agree that the figure manipulation present in the article merits retraction. All five authors have consented to this retraction.

The 2007 paper “Synergistic Interactions between Vorinostat and Sorafenib in Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Cells Involve Mcl-1 and p21CIP1 Down-Regulation” has been cited 53 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

According to the ORI report, Dasmahapatra

falsified and/or fabricated data by reporting the results of Western blot experiments and mouse imaging experiments that examined interactions between multiple histone deacetylase and/or proteasome inhibitors in several cancer models.

Regarding Dasmahapatra, a VCU spokesperson previously told us:

The VCU Office of Research Integrity and Ethics received an email in December 2014 from an anonymous source that alerted us to this matter. As soon as we were made aware of potential irregularities in the manuscripts’ figures, per VCU policy, we launched an internal inquiry that led to an investigation. The federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI) was notified, also per our policy, and assisted with the forensic analysis of many of the figures.

The spokesperson added:

In the course of the investigation, the former research instructor, Dr. Girija Dasmahapatra, admitted responsibility. This led to the Voluntary Exclusion Agreement between him and the ORI. Dasmahapatra left VCU in July 2015. The laboratory in which he worked has taken steps to prevent these kinds of errors from occurring again, and journals where the manuscripts were published have been contacted in order to take the necessary editorial actions.

Here’s the latest correction we’ve come across for Dent and Grant, which cites image duplication. Dasmahapatra is not a co-author on the paper: 

In Fig. 3A, the image of mouse hepatocytes overexpressing p21 and treated with PD184352 (PD) and deoxycholic acid (DCA) was duplicated from the image of mouse hepatocytes infected with control virus and treated with PD184352 and deoxycholic acid. This error has now been corrected. This error does not affect the results or conclusions of this work.

The 2008 paper “Multiple cyclin kinase inhibitors promote bile acid-induced apoptosis and autophagy in primary hepatocytes via p53-CD95-dependent signaling” has accumulated 32 citations.

Several other papers by Grant, Dent, and Paul Fisher are being questioned on PubPeer.

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