Beyond retractions: A technique gets an obituary

Sometimes, apparently, a retraction isn’t enough to put research findings to bed forever. Consider this obituary recently posted online at the Journal of Pediatrics, for a method of detecting gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in children:

We commonly recognize the contributions of distinguished members of the pediatric community and, with regret, their passing. It is appropriate, therefore, that we acknowledge the timely death of an old friend, the pH probe. Crushed to death under the weight of evidence against it, it was found abandoned in a trash can with a note that read, ‘‘Good riddance to a bad test.’’

To be fair, the pH probe has always been the standard bearer for mediocrity.

The obituary goes on: Continue reading Beyond retractions: A technique gets an obituary

2009 Cell paper on muscular dystrophy gene link retracted

A Cell paper reporting on genetic mutations responsible for a form of muscular dystrophy was retracted earlier this month. According to the retraction:

Our paper reported the identification of mutations in the gene VMA21 in patients with X-linked myopathy with excessive autophagy (XMEA) and characterized the molecular mechanisms underlying the disease phenotype. Many of the figure panels in the paper summarize data from multiple experiments. We have now detected a number of errors in these panels. Although we stand by the validity of our conclusions, we believe that the most responsible course of action is to retract our paper. We are preparing an expanded version of our work for future submission. We deeply regret this circumstance and apologize to the community.

One of the original authors, Dr. Aubourg, could not be reached regarding this Retraction.

The study has been cited 11 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Here’s a press release the researchers’ hospital, Sick Kid’s of Toronto, sent out when it was originally published.

Nobelist Linda Buck retracts two studies on olfactory networks — and the news is embargoed

Well, it’s happened: The Embargo Watch and Retraction Watch worlds have collided. I had initially figured on two posts here, but it soon became clear that how journals were handling these retractions, using embargoes, was central to both. So this is being cross-posted on both blogs.

Linda Buck, who shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, has retracted two papers published in 2005 and 2006. Both retractions — one in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and one in Science — appear online today.

The papers describe how nerves that carry information about scents connect from the nose to the olfactory bulb, where they are processed. They were published after the 2004 Nobel, which was for discoveries “of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system.”

The retractions come two and a half years after Buck retracted a 2001 Nature paper co-authored with Zhihua Zou, a post-doc in her then-Harvard lab. She’s been at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center since 2002, and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. In 2008, Nature’s news section reported:

Harvard Medical School has formed an ad hoc committee to review the retraction, and Buck has asked the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to review two later publications on which Zou was the lead author. “It’s disappointing of course,” says Buck. “The important thing is to correct the literature.”

The PNAS and Science retractions are of those two later publications. The PNAS study was cited 61 times, and the Science study was cited 73 times, according to the Thomson Scientific Web of Knowledge.

The Science retraction reads: Continue reading Nobelist Linda Buck retracts two studies on olfactory networks — and the news is embargoed

Gene therapy researcher Savio Woo retracts two more papers

courtesy Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Mount Sinai School of Medicine researcher Savio Woo, whom Retraction Watch reported last week has already retracted four papers from major journals as two postdocs have been fired from his lab, has retracted two more from Molecular Therapy: The Journal of the American Society of Gene Therapy.

The two papers, both from 2007, were Continue reading Gene therapy researcher Savio Woo retracts two more papers

Progressive: How the Cochrane Library handles updates-in-progress

Over the summer, while searching for some studies and evidence for various treatments, my wife, a television writer and producer, noticed something she thought unusual enough to flag for me. The titles of a number of Cochrane Library reviews started with “WITHDRAWN.”

The Cochrane Library is the world’s leading publisher of systematic reviews, which gather all of the high-quality evidence on a given subject and offer a rigorous analysis of whether a given test or treatment works. It’s an invaluable resource. (Shameless plug: Join the Association of Health Care Journalists, where I’m treasurer, and access to the $285-per-year Cochrane subscription is included.)

Retraction Watch was curious about what “WITHDRAWN” meant, since “withdrawal” is often used synonymously with retraction. Cochrane updates its reviews regularly, as new evidence surfaces, of course. But these abstracts didn’t say anything about new reviews.

We asked Jen Beal, who handles media relations for Wiley, the Cochrane Library’s publisher. She responded: Continue reading Progressive: How the Cochrane Library handles updates-in-progress

Update on stem cell-cancer link retraction: Why not everyone signed, and why authors ended up in another journal first

Last month, we wrote about the retraction of a 2005 paper suggesting that some adult stem cells might give rise to cancer. That, of course, would be a problem if researchers tried treating heart disease and other conditions with them. The paper’s authors retracted it, however, when it became clear that instead of being transformed — that’s the scientific word for “became cancerous” — the cells had simply become contaminated and overgrown with tumor cells used in research.

We had some questions for the authors of the original paper, and for the editor of the journal. Last week, we heard back from one of the paper’s authors, Javier Garcia-Castro, who had been on vacation without Internet access for weeks. In an email to Retraction Watch, Garcia-Castro wrote: Continue reading Update on stem cell-cancer link retraction: Why not everyone signed, and why authors ended up in another journal first

Did a NOAA scientist “retract” an overoptimistic oil spill report?

Photo by Mindful Walker http://www.flickr.com/photos/27530874@N03/ via flickr

Yesterday, on a story about a Congressional hearing on the progress of oil spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico, the Guardian ran the following headline:

BP oil spill: US scientist retracts assurances over success of cleanup

NOAA’s Bill Lehr says three-quarters of the oil that gushed from the Deepwater Horizon rig is still in the Gulf environment while scientists identify 22-mile plume in ocean depths

The story, as do those in the Los Angeles Times, The Hill, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, among others, point out that Lehr’s testimony seemed at odds with the almost celebratory atmosphere surrounding the release of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report two weeks ago, “BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Budget: What Happened To the Oil?”

The coverage yesterday also noted that other scientists have criticized the report, and that a study in Science this week suggests there’s still an underwater plume of oil in the Gulf.

But did Lehr actually “retract” assurances over the cleanup’s success, or the report itself? Continue reading Did a NOAA scientist “retract” an overoptimistic oil spill report?

It’s not a tumor: Authors retract 2005 Cancer Research paper linking adult stem cells to cancer

The authors of a 2005 Cancer Research paper that cast some doubt on the safety of a population of adult stem cells used frequently in research have retracted it. According to the retraction, in the August 15 issue of the journal:

Upon review of the data published in this article, the authors have been unable to reproduce some of the reported spontaneous transformation events and suspect the phenomenon is due to a cross-contamination artifact.

Transformation refers to changes in the cells that make them “immortal” — think HeLa cells, made popular by Rebecca Skloot’s book about Henrietta Lacks — and cancer-like. Continue reading It’s not a tumor: Authors retract 2005 Cancer Research paper linking adult stem cells to cancer

American Cancer Society drops ‘Screening is Seeing’ ad campaign

When we started Retraction Watch, Gary Schwitzer suggested that one of us might be a vampire.

Well, Schwitzer, let us say this: You are no Jesus.

However, criticism leveled by Schwitzer at an American Cancer Society (ACS) ad campaign earlier this week has accomplished the Retraction Watch equivalent of turning water into wine. The campaign, he wrote, Continue reading American Cancer Society drops ‘Screening is Seeing’ ad campaign

The shroud of retraction: Virology Journal withdraws paper about whether Christ cured a woman with flu

Jesus healing a bleeding woman, courtesy http://campus.belmont.edu/honors/CatPix/womanblood.jpg via Wikipedia

It takes decades, and even centuries, to overturn the Catholic canon of law, but medical journals move much more quickly: Just three weeks after the Virology Journal published a paper speculating that a woman described in the Bible as being “cured by our Lord Jesus Christ” had flu, the journal has apologized for ever posting it online.

After bemused — to put it mildly — reactions from bloggers Bob O’Hara (who alerted us to the retraction), P.Z. Myers, and Tara C. Smith, as well as questions from a journal reader, the journal’s editor, Robert F. Garry, posted a retraction to O’Hara’s blog, and in his own journal: Continue reading The shroud of retraction: Virology Journal withdraws paper about whether Christ cured a woman with flu