Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

UCLA lab pulls two papers — one by author who admitted to misconduct

with 2 comments

A lab at the University of California, Los Angeles has retracted two papers for duplicated images.

These retractions — in the Journal of Immunology — represent the second and third retractions for the lab head; he lost another paper after one of his former students confessed to manipulating images.

Although Eriko Suzuki admitted to her actions on PubPeer in 2014, the 2007 Oncogene paper wasn’t retracted until June, 2016, when the journal issued a notice citing “data irregularities.”

Unfortunately, Suzuki’s admission in 2014 wasn’t the end of the troubles for lab head Benjamin Bonavida, who recently issued two additional retractions in the Journal of Immunology, only one of which includes Suzuki as a co-author.

Bonavida told us the university received allegations (he’s not sure from who) that some of the control gels were duplicated; he didn’t agree, but couldn’t produce the original gels to disprove it. We asked if any more retractions were coming from Bonavida, who has since retired from running a lab:

I hope not. After my 40-year career, this is what I end up with.

Here’s the first (paywalled) notice, for “Regulation of Tumor Cell Sensitivity to TRAIL-Induced Apoptosis by the Metastatic Suppressor Raf Kinase Inhibitor Protein via Yin Yang 1 Inhibition and Death Receptor 5 Up-Regulation:”

A request was received from the Acting Research Integrity Officer of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to retract this article: “Regulation of Tumor Cell Sensitivity to TRAIL-Induced Apoptosis by the Metastatic Suppressor Raf Kinase Inhibitor Protein via Yin Yang 1 Inhibition and Death Receptor 5 Up-Regulation” by Stavroula Baritaki, Alina Katsman, Devasis Chatterjee, Kam C. Yeung, Demetrios A. Spandidos, and Benjamin Bonavida, The Journal of Immunology, 2007, 179: 5441–5453. The Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Immunology was informed that UCLA had conducted a review of the work and concluded that data used in some of the figures in this article could not be supported. In particular, issues involving duplication of images were identified in Figs. 1B, 1C, 2B, 4C, 5B and 5C. The article is therefore retracted.

That 2007 paper has been cited 66 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

And here’s the second (also paywalled) retraction notice for “Inhibition of Yin Yang 1-Dependent Repressor Activity of DR5 Transcription and Expression by the Novel Proteasome Inhibitor NPI-0052 Contributes to its TRAIL-Enhanced Apoptosis in Cancer Cells,” on which Suzuki is listed as a second author:

A request was received from the Acting Research Integrity Officer of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to retract this article: “Inhibition of Yin Yang 1-Dependent Repressor Activity of DR5 Transcription and Expression by the Novel Proteasome Inhibitor NPI-0052 Contributes to its TRAIL-Enhanced Apoptosis in Cancer Cells” by Stavroula Baritaki, Eriko Suzuki, Kazuo Umezawa, Demetrios A. Spandidos, James Berenson, Tracy R. Daniels, Manuel L. Penichet, Ali R. Jazirehi, Michael Palladino, and Benjamin Bonavida, The Journal of Immunology, 2008, 180: 6199–6210. The Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Immunology was informed that UCLA had conducted a review of the work and concluded that data used in some of the figures in this article could not be supported. In particular, issues involving duplication of images were identified in Figs. 2A, 3B, and 6B. The article is therefore retracted. It is noted that not all coauthors of this article worked on the data presented in the figures identified by UCLA. In particular, Manuel L. Penichet has advised the Editor-in-Chief that his contributions and those of Tracy R. Daniels were confined to data in Figure 7.

That 2008 paper has been cited 48 times.

Both of the papers have been questioned on PubPeer, with comments dating back to 2014. Bonavida told us:

Some of the gels that were represented for the controls, apparently somebody claims they were reproduced from other figures. That was not the case, but it was very hard to prove that…I could not defend it, but I tried very hard.

He added:

I feel very bad for the fellows that were involved in the papers.

He said a committee at UCLA investigated the allegations, and although he was initially informed the committee was going to ask the journal to correct the papers,

…for some reason, they went ahead with the retractions…without asking our opinion.

That wasn’t the plan, he noted:

I was really surprised – that was not was what was decided upon.

Bonavida added that Suzuki only contributed to a part of one of the papers retracted by the Journal of Immunology — but noted that what happened with the Oncogene paper was

absolutely very shocking.

Here’s the notice for “Rituximab inhibits the constitutively activated PI3K-Akt pathway in B-NHL cell lines: involvement in chemosensitization to drug-induced apoptosis,” which has been cited 50 times since it was published in 2007 (15 times since 2014, when Suzuki said she planned to retract it):

As per the request of the authors, the Editors and Publisher have agreed to retract this paper due to the data irregularities, which result in the conclusions drawn not being fully supported.

We’ve contacted the research integrity officer at UCLA, and the first author on both papers, Stavroula Baritaki, whose LinkedIn profile lists her at UCLA.

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.

Comments