Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Breast cancer studies by fired Pfizer employee retracted

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Last year, Pfizer fired one of its scientists following an investigation that ended with requests for retraction of five of her studies. Now, two of the five papers, which were first flagged on PubPeer, have been retracted.

One notice cites the Pfizer investigation, which found that cancer researcher Min-Jean Yin had included duplicated images in all five papers. Yin is the last author on both retracted papers.

Here’s the first notice from Clinical Cancer Research, which says most or all of the questioned images appear to be duplicates, and Pfizer — who sponsored the study and requested the retraction — can’t find the originals:

In early 2016, the CCR editorial office became aware of potential image manipulation in the article through a record posted on pubpeer.com. The CCR editorial office contacted the corresponding author about the matter and received a response from a Pfizer representative, who informed us that the company assembled a review team to investigate the matter further. A Pfizer representative recently contacted the CCR editorial office with the results of the investigation: Most or all of the images in question appear to be duplications, and most of the authentic, original images that should have been used in place of the duplicated images cannot be located. As a result, Pfizer is requesting retraction of the article and has obtained consent from all six authors.

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. Five authors have consented to this retraction notice; the CCR editorial office did not receive a response from Dr. Pramod P. Mehta.

The article, “Effective Targeting of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cells by PF-4942847, a Novel Oral Inhibitor of Hsp 90,” was originally published in 2011, and has been cited 24 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

The other retracted paper, “A novel class of specific Hsp90 small molecule inhibitors demonstrate in vitro and in vivo anti-tumor activity in human melanoma cells,” was published in Cancer Letters in 2011 and has been cited 11 times. Its retraction notice reads, in part:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Authors. Following an investigation by Pfizer, Figures 2, 5B and 5C appear to be duplications and hence the conclusions in the manuscript cannot be verified. The Authors apologize for this inconvenience.

According to Yin’s LinkedIn profile, she is now based at biotech startup Diagnologix.

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