Researcher who once tried to sue critics has another dozen papers retracted

Fazlul Sarkar

A cancer researcher who went to court — unsuccessfully — claiming that commenters on PubPeer had cost him a new job has just lost another 12 papers.

The twelve now-retracted papers by Fazlul Sarkar and colleagues — as well as another by Sarkar that is now subject to an editor’s note — all appeared in Cancer Research, which made for a long table of contents in its September 15 issue. Continue reading Researcher who once tried to sue critics has another dozen papers retracted

Cancer journals retract 10 papers, flag 8 more, and apologize for the delay

Bharat Aggarwal

Five journals published by a prominent cancer research society have retracted a total of 10 papers — most of them by a former researcher at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Nine of the 10 retractions share that researcher, Bharat Aggarwal, as an author. Aggarwal — who more than five years ago threatened to sue us for reporting on an investigation into his work — is now up to 28 retractions, and has left his post at MD Anderson. The AACR is also appending an editor’s note to eight of his other papers — but it has not explained the reason for what it acknowledges is a lag in moving on these articles.

“Unfortunately, we have been delayed in correcting the published record, and for this we apologize,” writes the publisher of The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), Christine Rullo, in a note in this month’s issue of Cancer Research. Rullo doesn’t say how long the journals took to handle the retractions. Continue reading Cancer journals retract 10 papers, flag 8 more, and apologize for the delay

A 2015 PNAS paper is six pages long. Its correction is four pages long.

Sometimes, corrections are so extensive, they can only be called one thing: Mega-corrections.

Recently, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) issued a four-page correction notice to a paper about a compound that appeared to reduce the chances a cancer will recur. The notice describes figure duplication, problems with error bars and figure legends — as well as the loss of statistical significance for some data.

According to the authors’ statement in the notice:

Continue reading A 2015 PNAS paper is six pages long. Its correction is four pages long.

Nature cancer paper that raised animal welfare concerns is retracted

When Nature published a paper in 2011 describing a compound extracted from a pepper plant that appeared to kill cancer cells but leave healthy cells unscathed, it got some attention.

Of course, the news caught the media’s eye, but also that of other researchers, who have since jumped on the concept, and continued to study the effects of the compound — piperlongumine — on cancer, as well as other conditions.

But ever since the 2011 letter appeared, researchers have raised concerns about some of the figures — including one that showed mice with massive tumors, suggesting they had experienced an unreasonable amount of distress during the study. Nature has responded by issuing two lengthy correction notices in 2012 and 2015 — as well as an editorial that admitted the animals may have “experienced more pain and suffering than originally allowed for,” but did not warrant retracting, as the results remained “valid and useful.”

Today, the journal is retracting the paper, with the following brief notice:

Continue reading Nature cancer paper that raised animal welfare concerns is retracted

A misconduct probe — which led to 20 retraction requests — took four years. Why?

Santosh Katiyar

A probe into the work of a researcher who studied natural products for cancer had many stops and starts along the way — including five extensions granted by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity — according to documents obtained by Retraction Watch.

Following a public records request, we recently obtained a copy of the report on the investigation of allegations of misconduct by Santosh Katiyar, issued jointly by the University of Alabama Birmingham and the Birmingham VA Medical Center. As a result of the report, the institutions have requested 20 retractions of work by Santosh Katiyar, who received millions in funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health

How does the report stack up?

Continue reading A misconduct probe — which led to 20 retraction requests — took four years. Why?

How much cancer stems from diabetes, obesity? Lancet journal swaps high-profile paper

Six months ago, the media was ablaze with the findings of a new paper, showing that nearly six percent of cancer cases are caused, at least in part, by obesity and diabetes. But this week, the journal retracted that paper — and replaced it with a revised version.

The new paper doesn’t change the main findings much — the share of all cancers attributable to diabetes and obesity changed from 5.6% to 5.7%, which wouldn’t change any headlines about the original paper. But soon after the paper was published, a group of researchers noticed the authors’ mistake — which was significant enough to prompt the journal to retract the paper entirely, and swap it with a new one.

According to first author Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard at Imperial College London:

Continue reading How much cancer stems from diabetes, obesity? Lancet journal swaps high-profile paper

A cancer researcher said she collected blood from 98 people. It was all her own.

A researcher collected her own blood and forged the labels so it would appear to be samples from nearly 100 people, according to a new finding of research misconduct released today by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

The former researcher at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center swapped her own blood samples for those taken from 98 human subjects. The misconduct affects two grant progress reports and two papers; one paper has already been retracted, and the former “research interviewer” — Maria Cristina Miron Elqutub — has agreed to correct or retract the other.

Adel El-Naggar, a co-author on both of the papers also based at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, told Retraction Watch:

Continue reading A cancer researcher said she collected blood from 98 people. It was all her own.

Caught Our Notice: Researcher who once threatened to sue Retraction Watch now up to 19 retractions

Title: Curcumin-Free Turmeric Exhibits Activity against Human HCT-116 Colon Tumor Xenograft: Comparison with Curcumin and Whole Turmeric

What Caught Our Attention: We haven’t heard much about Bharat Aggarwal since his seven retractions in 2016 propelled him onto our leaderboard (and long after he threatened to sue Retraction Watch for our reporting). There was a whisper of a mention, when his name was listed as one of the organizers of a cancer conference from which MD Anderson (his former employer) had to publicly distance themselves as a co-sponsor. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Researcher who once threatened to sue Retraction Watch now up to 19 retractions

Caught Our Notice: Researcher who sued PubPeer commenter up to 21 retractions

Titles: 1) Notch-1 induces Epithelial-mesenchymal transition consistent with cancer stem cell phenotype in pancreatic cancer cells

2) Sensitization of squamous cell carcinoma to cisplatin induced killing by natural agents

What Caught Our Attention: Regular readers will be familiar with the saga involving Fazlul Sarkar and PubPeer: In 2014, Sarkar sued anonymous commenters on the site, claiming defamation (and that damaging comments may have cost him a new job). Although Sarkar won an initial ruling, it was overturned by an appeals court. In the midst of that, the ACLU (which represented PubPeer in the case) released a copy of a misconduct investigation report compiled by Sarkar’s institution, Wayne State University, which concluded that he had committed enough misconduct to warrant retracting 40 papers. The two latest notices, both of which cite Wayne State’s investigation, bring Sarkar’s total to 21.   Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Researcher who sued PubPeer commenter up to 21 retractions

Figures in cancer paper at root of newly failed compound called into question

How much role did a potentially problematic paper play in the demise of a once-promising compound?

Researchers are questioning the validity of a high-profile article, published by Nature in 2006. Although the letter is 12 years old, the concerns have current implications: It was among the early evidence used to develop a cancer compound that recently failed a number of clinical trials.

It’s unclear whether the problems with the paper — if validated — could have contributed to the compound’s demise. But an outside expert has some thoughts — and so do image experts and multiple external reports, including one released this month, which agree the concerns about the figures have merit. (The first author’s ex-husband isn’t too happy with the article, either.)

Continue reading Figures in cancer paper at root of newly failed compound called into question