Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Another correction for prominent cancer researcher who’s dodged accusations for decades

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The chair of a biology department who has faced years of misconduct accusations has taken another hit—a lengthy correction due to text “overlap” between one of his PNAS papers and six other articles.

According to the correction, a reader contacted the journal to notify the editors that text and sentences in multiple sections of the 2015 paper — on which Carlo Croce is last author — were lifted from other sources without quotation marks.

This is the second correction for Croce in PNAS regarding overlap issues in just the last few weeks—the first was published on March 7 (see here). In both instances, PNAS did not call the textual similarities plagiarism, but the notice details multiple instances of overlap.

Croce, the chair of the department of cancer biology and genetics at The Ohio State University (OSU), is no stranger to controversy.

Just last week, The New York Times published an article chronicling the allegations that have plagued Croce for decades.

By our count, he has had five papers retracted (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and many questioned on PubPeer. He has faced whistleblower complaints, scrutiny from critics regarding data fabrication and plagiarism, and questions over the improper use of grant money. And now, after the Times’ exposé, OSU will be investigating Croce’s record once again to determine whether the university handled previous cases properly.

Although the accusations and notices have ramped up considerably in the past few years, Croce’s research ethics have been questioned since the 1990s, according to The Times:

[In the 1990s], Dr. Croce and a colleague faced federal allegations that they had submitted false claims for payment of grant money for science that was never carried out and that was to be overseen by a scientist who had, in fact, left the United States and gone to Italy.

Still, Croce has repeatedly shot down such claims. As the Times stated:

During an interview in October, and in a later statement, Dr. Croce, 72, denied any wrongdoing, said he had been singled out in some of the accusations simply because he was a prominent figure, and largely placed the blame for any problems with figures or text on junior researchers or collaborators at other labs.

We’ve reached out to Croce regarding the most recent correction in PNAS and will update the post if we hear back. In the meantime, here’s the full correction notice for “A set of NF-κB–regulated microRNAs induces acquired TRAIL resistance in Lung cancer,” which has been cited eight times since it was published in 2015:

The editors wish to note that, after this article was published, a reader noticed that some fragments of text and some sentences in the introduction, results, and discussion overlap with text from other articles and were reproduced without quotation marks. The editors wish to include the relevant text and references below. No concerns have been raised about the originality of the research or about the results and conclusions.

In the introduction, some text from sentences 1, 6–8, 12, and 13 overlaps substantially with text from the following work, which was not originally cited:

Habelhah H (2010) RIP1 cleavage by caspase-8 is essential for TRAIL-induced NF-κB activation (University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA). Available at

In the introduction, sentences 2 and 3 overlap substantially with text from the following work, which was not originally cited:

Bellail AC, Olson JJ, Yang X, Chen ZJ, Hao C (2012) A20 ubiquitin ligase–mediated polyubiquitination of RIP1 inhibits caspase-8 cleavage and TRAIL-induced apoptosis in glioblastoma. Cancer Discov 2(2):140–155.

Sentence 4 of the introduction overlaps substantially with text from the work below, which was not originally cited: “The other two receptors, DcR1 and DcR2, are ‘decoy receptors’ and lack the ability to initiate the apoptotic cascade.”

Garofalo M, et al. (2008) MicroRNA signatures of TRAIL resistance in human non-small cell lung cancer. Oncogene 27(27):3845–3855.

Sentence 16 of the introduction overlaps substantially with text from the work below, which was not originally cited: “Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality, not only in the United States but also around the world.”

Molina JR, Yang P, Cassivi SD, Schild SE, Adjei AA (2008) Non-small cell lung cancer: Epidemiology, risk factors, treatment, and survivorship. Mayo Clin Proc 83(5):584–594.

Sentence 8 of paragraph 3 in the discussion overlaps substantially with text from the work below, which was not originally cited: “TRAFs were initially discovered as adaptor proteins that couple the TNF receptor family to signaling pathways.”

Bradley JR, Pober JS (2001) Tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factors (TRAFs). Oncogene 20(44):6482–6491.

In the discussion, paragraph 3, sentence 21 overlaps substantially with text from ref. 49 and is now shown with quotation marks below:

“Genetic inhibition of the NF-ĸB pathway affects both the initiation and the maintenance of lung cancer, identifying this pathway as a promising therapeutic target [49]” (49).

49. Xue W, et al. (2011) Response and resistance to NF-ĸB inhibitors in mouse models of lung adenocarcinoma. Cancer Discov 1(3):236–247.

Hat tip: David Sanders

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Written by Victoria Stern

March 15th, 2017 at 11:30 am

  • PJTV March 18, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Many of the plagiarisms mentioned here, are from sentences in the introduction. This is understandable as that section of paper a introduces general perspectives and other research, although I would expect a real scientist to write this afresh. So some leniency in judgment on these cases is in place.

    That Dr. Croce puts blame ‘for problems’ on junior scientists, is despicable.

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