Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Paper by Harvard cancer biologist flagged over “credible concerns”

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A cancer biologist at Harvard who’s issued multiple editorial notices in recent years has received an expression of concern about a 2011 paper, citing “credible concerns” with the data and conclusions.

The publisher does not detail the nature of the issues in the notice.

In the past few years, last author Sam W. Lee lost a Molecular Cell paper in 2013 due to figure duplication and a Journal of Biological Chemistry paper in 2015, citing “manipulated” data in a figure.

Lee also issued two mega-corrections in 2011 in Nature and Current Biology, which also cited figure duplication. Interestingly, both papers were corrected for a second time — the 2006 Current Biology paper in 2016, over figure-related errors, and the 2011 Nature paper in 2015, over concerns the animals used may have experienced excess suffering (prompting an editorial from the journal).

The latest notice, issued by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, doesn’t provide much information for the basis of its expression of concern over Lee’s 2011 paper:

The publisher of the Journal of Biological Chemistry is issuing an Expression of Concern to inform readers that credible concerns have been raised regarding some of the data and conclusions in the article listed above. The Journal of Biological Chemistry will provide additional information as it becomes available.

DDR1 receptor tyrosine kinase promotes prosurvival pathway through Notch1 activation” has been cited 35 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

We reached out to Lee for more insights on these concerns and will update the post if we hear back.

Kaoru Sakabe—data integrity manager at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (which publishes JBC)—said she would update us once more information became available.

The paper was questioned on PubPeer in 2014, when commenters flagged similarities between two blots in the paper. Some of his other papers have also been discussed on PubPeer, noting potential concerns with figures.

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