Cancer researcher retracts 19 studies at once

jcheng
Jin Cheng

A former cancer biologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida has retracted 19 papers from a single journal.

Jin Cheng, who studies how ovarian cancer develops, withdrew 19 papers from the Journal of Biological Chemistry originally published over the last 15 years, and corrected another. All of the retractions are for image manipulation.

For example, here’s the notice for “Activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt pathway by androgen through interaction of p85α, androgen receptor, and Src,” a paper originally published in 2003:

This article has been withdrawn by the authors. The same data were used to represent different experimental conditions. Specifically, lanes 1–3 of the H2B panel of Fig. 4Bwere reused in lanes 1–3 of the H2B panel from Fig. 6B. Lanes 1 and 6 of the phospho-Akt panel from Fig. 4C were duplicated. Lanes 3 and 4 of the lower FLAG panel in Fig. 4Cwere reused in lanes 7 and 8 of the lower FLAG panel in Fig. 5A. The PI(3,4)P2 spots from lanes 1 and 2 from Fig. 7 were reused in lanes 7 and 8 of the same panel. Additionally, some PI(4)P1 spots were pasted in. The authors state that the overall conclusions of this work are not affected.

Cheng has been awarded multiple NIH R01 grants, totaling millions of dollars, according to NIH RePORTER. A person answering the phone number listed for Cheng’s lab said he had retired. The email address listed on many of his papers bounced.

Here are the 19 retractions:

The current issue of the JBC also includes a correction of one of Cheng’s papers, “Long non-coding RNAs (LncRNA) regulated by transforming growth factor (TGF) β. LncRNA-HIT-MEDIATED TGF-INDUCED EPITHELIAL TO MESENCHYMAL TRANSITION IN MAMMARY EPITHELIA,” a study that has been cited 17 times.

Update, 11 p.m. Eastern, 10/21/16: Moffitt gave us the following statement:

Moffitt Cancer Center adheres to the highest ethical standards in both research and clinical care. Moffitt has collaborated with the Journal of Biological Chemistry to resolve this issue, and review of this matter is ongoing. Patient care, safety or protocols were not affected in any way.

And University of South Florida Health, with whom the Moffitt is affiliated, said:

Jin Q. Cheng is not a paid USF Health faculty member. We are unaware of any investigations at USF regarding his work.

As of today he still holds a courtesy appointment with USF Health.  However, USF reserves the right to address any concerns regarding courtesy appointments at its discretion.

We will look into this matter to determine if any action if necessary.       

Like Retraction Watch? Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our growth. You can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up on our homepage for an email every time there’s a new post, or subscribe to our daily digest. Click here to review our Comments Policy. For a sneak peek at what we’re working on, click here.

28 thoughts on “Cancer researcher retracts 19 studies at once”

  1. The government can exercise their right to instigate a false claims case, with treble damages. However, I anticipate that this might be directed at the Institution(s). I fear that such actions may be what is needed to incentivize institutions to undertake their ORI policing responsibilities more diligently. Achieving income from grants and avoiding bad publicity is a powerful incentive not to do so. This fraud, waste and abuse has to be addressed proactively by the institutions,

  2. Jin Q Cheng as penultimate author.

    J Biol Chem. 2005 Apr 8;280(14):14302-9. Epub 2005 Jan 31.
    Molecular and genetic studies imply Akt-mediated signaling promotes protein kinase CbetaII alternative splicing via phosphorylation of serine/arginine-rich splicing factor SRp40.
    Patel NA1, Kaneko S, Apostolatos HS, Bae SS, Watson JE, Davidowitz K, Chappell DS, Birnbaum MJ, Cheng JQ, Cooper DR.
    Author information
    1Department of Biochemistry, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida 33612, USA.

    Figure 4(b). http://i.imgur.com/w8Lmpp2.jpg

  3. Jin Q Cheng as middle author.

    J Biol Chem. 2004 Oct 15;279(42):44113-22. Epub 2004 Aug 6.
    Human intestinal epithelial cell survival and anoikis. Differentiation state-distinct regulation and roles of protein kinase B/Akt isoforms.

    Geneviève Dufour‡, Marie-Josée Demers‡, David Gagné‡, Anders Bondo Dydensborg‡, Inga C. Teller‡, Véronique Bouchard‡, Isabelle Degongre‡, Jean-François Beaulieu‡§, Jin Q. Cheng¶, Naoya Fujita∥, Takashi Tsuruo∥, Karine Vallée‡ and Pierre H. Vachon‡§,**
    – Author Affiliations

    ‡Canadian Institutes of Health Research Group on the Functional Development and Physiopathology of the Digestive Tract, Département d’Anatomie et de Biologie Cellulaire, Faculté de Médecine, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec J1H 5N4, Canada, the ¶Department of Pathology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, College of Medicine, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 33612, ∥Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0032, Japan, and §Thématique de Recherche en Physiopathologie Digestive du Centre de Recherches Cliniques, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec J1H 5N4, Canada

    Figure 6A. http://i.imgur.com/RNG82Rh.jpg

    Figure 3D. http://i.imgur.com/Cc1yXBg.jpg

  4. 19+ retractions in one go. Are these cases now coming out because detection techniques are better and people are more aware of possible misconduct? This indicates that many more older publications might have candidates for retraction.

    Further, it is not only the coauthors who are questionable but also authors of the nearly 2000 papers that cite these papers.

  5. Another Jin Q Cheng publication.

    Cancer Res. 2001 Aug 15;61(16):5985-91.
    Phosphatidylinositol-3-OH Kinase (PI3K)/AKT2, activated in breast cancer, regulates and is induced by estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) via interaction between ERalpha and PI3K.
    Sun M1, Paciga JE, Feldman RI, Yuan Z, Coppola D, Lu YY, Shelley SA, Nicosia SV, Cheng JQ.
    Author information
    1Department of Pathology and Programs of Molecular Oncology and Drug Discovery, University of South Florida College of Medicine and H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida 33612, USA.

    Figure 1A. http://i.imgur.com/nj1ocmb.jpg

    Figure 3B. http://i.imgur.com/Aj10sWO.jpg

    Figure 4B. http://i.imgur.com/w2F6jY5.jpg

  6. Oncogene. 2004 Jan 22;23(3):706-15.
    Phosphatidylinositol-3-OH kinase/AKT and survivin pathways as critical targets for geranylgeranyltransferase I inhibitor-induced apoptosis.
    Dan HC1, Jiang K, Coppola D, Hamilton A, Nicosia SV, Sebti SM, Cheng JQ.
    Author information
    1Department of Pathology, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, FL 33612, USA.

    Pubpeer comments. https://pubpeer.com/publications/AF437ED768395355FB5FE4E7F7C9B1#fb108978

    Figures 2a and 2b. http://i.imgur.com/wwqC16F.jpg

    Figure 4 and 5. http://i.imgur.com/PexKFAv.jpg

    Figure 7d. http://i.imgur.com/yWWrvzm.jpg

  7. Jin Q Cheng as penultimate author.

    Mol Cancer. 2010 Sep 2;9:229. doi: 10.1186/1476-4598-9-229.
    MiR-221 and miR-222 target PUMA to induce cell survival in glioblastoma.
    Zhang CZ1, Zhang JX, Zhang AL, Shi ZD, Han L, Jia ZF, Yang WD, Wang GX, Jiang T, You YP, Pu PY, Cheng JQ, Kang CS.

    For author details see: http://imgur.com/CJiCjF3

    Pubpeer comments. https://pubpeer.com/publications/20813046

    Figure 1B. http://i.imgur.com/mL8uhqr.jpg

    Figure 2C. http://i.imgur.com/TUPRuDy.jpg

    Figure 4F. http://i.imgur.com/4UWG2pN.jpg

  8. Oncogene. 2016 Sep 1;35(35):4558-68. doi: 10.1038/onc.2015.522. Epub 2016 Jan 25.
    Adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) regulates miR17-92 cluster through β-catenin pathway in colorectal cancer.
    Li Y1, Lauriola M1,2, Kim D1, Francesconi M3, D’Uva G2, Shibata D4, Malafa MP4, Yeatman TJ4, Coppola D5, Solmi R2, Cheng JQ1.
    Author information
    1Department of Molecular Oncology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, FL, USA.
    2Dipartimento di Medicina Specialistica, Diagnostica e Sperimentale, Università di Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
    3EMBL-CRG Systems Biology Unit, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Dr. Aiguader, Barcelona, Spain.
    4Department of Gastrointestinal Oncology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, FL, USA.
    5Department of Pathology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, FL, USA.

    Pubpeer. https://pubpeer.com/publications/26804172

    Figure 3. http://i.imgur.com/hB52wtX.jpg

  9. PLoS One. 2010 Mar 9;5(3):e9616. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009616.
    Regulation of proapoptotic mammalian ste20-like kinase MST2 by the IGF1-Akt pathway.
    Kim D1, Shu S, Coppola MD, Kaneko S, Yuan ZQ, Cheng JQ.
    Author information
    1Department of Molecular Oncology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, Florida, USA.

    Pubpeer comments: https://pubpeer.com/publications/20231902

    Figures 1a and 3b. http://i.imgur.com/eBtsCmi.jpg

  10. “Further, it is not only the coauthors who are questionable but also authors of the nearly 2000 papers that cite these papers.”

    That’s the really scary aspect of this fraud.

  11. I find it interesting that “scientists” like Sarkar, Aggarwal and Cheng, who have large numbers of scientific papers under suspicion of fraud, are able to “retire” from their institutions. Why were they not fired? Maybe criminal or civil penalties will be applied later, but it seems to me that they are getting off very easily.

    1. One obvious problem is the question of responsibility. If Cheng neither did the manipulations nor specifically asked for them, would a court consider him guilty of fraud? Possibly, but just as likely not. This makes firing a tenured professor quite difficult without other ‘good’ reasons, like necessary budget cuts or failure to reach agreed-upon milestones, since there will likely be a judicial challenge to the dismissal. And that can get mightily messy and expensive.

      1. Very good point. I agree that the institutions may be offering an easier way out for these professors than trying to fire them.

  12. Cancer Res. 2004 Jul 1;64(13):4394-9.
    Akt/protein kinase B signaling inhibitor-2, a selective small molecule inhibitor of Akt signaling with antitumor activity in cancer cells overexpressing Akt.
    Yang L1, Dan HC, Sun M, Liu Q, Sun XM, Feldman RI, Hamilton AD, Polokoff M, Nicosia SV, Herlyn M, Sebti SM, Cheng JQ.
    Author information
    1Department of Pathology and Interdisciplinary Oncology, University of South Florida College of Medicine, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida 33612, USA.

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/15231645

    Figure 3A. http://i.imgur.com/pmPt6d1.jpg

  13. The authors state that the overall conclusions of this work are not affected.

    “The results were faked but the conclusions built on them remain valid”.

    1. Take Them Away in Bulk
      Oct 25, 2016
      A former Moffitt Cancer Center researcher has retracted 19 papers from one journal all at once, Retraction Watch reports.

      The researcher, Jin Cheng, retracted the papers from the Journal of Biological Chemistry due to image manipulation, as Retraction Watch notes. As an example, one retracted paper reported that microRNA-155 targeted FOXO3a to regulate cell survival, growth, and chemosensitivity in breast cancer. While the researchers say in the retraction notice that they stand by the paper’s findings and broad conclusions, they withdrew it because “[t]he same data were used to represent different experimental conditions.” Notices on other papers gave similar explanations, Retraction Watch says.

      The Moffitt Cancer Center further tells Retraction Watch that it is working with JBC and is looking into the matter. It adds that it “adheres to the highest ethical standards in both research and clinical care.”

  14. “Further, it is not only the coauthors who are questionable but also authors of the nearly 2000 papers that cite these papers.”

    What about the institutions where these studies were conducted? What about the journals themselves? Should they not be held accountable for publishing these articles? Shouldn’t the person responsible for approving the grants for all of these projects be held accountable? Where do you draw the line?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.