Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

OSU researcher under investigation corrects paper cited 500 times

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An EMBO journal has issued a correction for a well-cited 2012 review co-authored by a cancer researcher under investigation.

Carlo Croce, the last author on the review, has been beleaguered by misconduct accusations that have followed him for years (recently described in a lengthy article in the New York Times), and his university has recently re-opened an investigation into his work.

By our count, Croce — based at The Ohio State University — has logged six retractions, along with multiple expressions of concerns and corrections. The latest correction, in EMBO Molecular Medicine, notes the review lifted passages from multiple publications — and was in turn reused in later papers, as well.

Here’s the notice:

This article, published in the March 2012 issue of EMBO Molecular Medicine, contained text passages similar to those from a number of previous publications, many by the same authors: “Cancer microRNAs: from subtype profiling to predictors of response to therapy” by Chan E, Pardo DE, Weidhaas JB in Trends Mol Med 17: 235–243; “Targeting microRNAs in cancer: rationale, strategies and challenges” by Garson R, Marcucci G, Croce CM in Nat Rev Drug Discov 9: 775–789; “MicroRNAs in cancer: small molecules with a huge impact” by Iorio MV, Croce CM in J Clin Oncol 27: 5848–5856; and “Breast cancer and microRNAs: therapeutic impact” by Iorio MV, Casalini P, Piovan C, Braccioli L, Tagliabue E in Breast 20 Suppl. 3: S63–S70. Formal citations to the original articles were inadvertently omitted.

Similarly, a number of later publications overlap with text from this reference without formal citations. These are as follows: “microRNA: new players in metastatic process” by Triulzi T, Iorio MV, Tagliabue E, Casalini P in Oncogene and cancer—from bench to clinic, Siregar Y (ed.), Chapter 16. Rijeka: InTech; “microRNA involvement in human cancer” by Iorio MV, Croce CM in Carcinogenesis 33: 1126–1133; and “Causes and consequences of microRNA dysregulation” by Iorio MV, Croce CM in Cancer J, 18: 215–222. The authors apologize for this oversight.

MicroRNA dysregulation in cancer: diagnostics, monitoring and therapeutics. A comprehensive review” has been cited 517 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

We contacted Croce, but haven’t heard back.

We’ve seen papers retracted for reusing text, so asked if the journal considered that step in this case. We heard from Bernd Pulverer, chief editor at EMBO press, who told us:

We did consider the issues very carefully and decided this was the sensible corrective measure with complete transparency. Please note that this is a review and also that a number of the overlaps highlighted refer to the author’s own previous papers.

The review+corrigendum is not misleading, the text is accurate and the science reported not in question. We have noted on previous occasions that it is our primary duty to be stewards of an accurate literature and in my view this corrigendum achieves this.

We’ve also discovered another correction we missed for Croce, issued in January by the Journal of Experimental Medicine. In this case, the problem appeared to stem from a problem with one of the figures:

The authors regret that in their original paper, the RNU6 loading control panels shown in Fig. 1 (E and F) were incorrect as a result of an error in figure presentation during the final production process. The conclusions of the experiments shown in these panels are not affected. The corrected figure appears below. The online HTML and PDF versions of this article have been corrected. The error only remains in the print version.

In vivo NCL targeting affects breast cancer aggressiveness through miRNA regulation” has been cited 48 times since it was published in 2013.

Hat tip: David Sanders

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