The Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) has retracted a November 2011 editorial by a group of French cancer researchers, including David Khayat, the former head of that country’s National Cancer Institute, over what appears to be fairly extensive plagiarism.
Here’s the notice for the article, “Lymphocyte Infiltration in Breast Cancer: A Key Prognostic Factor That Should Not Be Ignored:”
It has been brought to our attention that the editorial by Roger Mouawad, PhD, Jean-Philippe Spano, MD, PhD, and David Khayat, MD, PhD, entitled “Lymphocyte Infiltration in Breast Cancer: A Key Prognostic Factor That Should Not Be Ignored” (J Clin Oncol 29:1935-1936, 2011), contained previously published content from the following journals:
Schmidt M, Böhm D, von Törne C: The humoral immune system has a key prognostic impact in node-negative breast cancer. Cancer Res 68:5405-5413, 2008
Sander M, Slaga T, Harris C: Mechanisms of toxicity, carcinogenesis, cancer prevention and cancer therapy 2009. Mol Carcinogen 49:410-428, 2010
Hiraoka N: Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and hepatocellular carcinoma: Molecular biology. Int J Clin Oncol 16:544-551, 2010
Talmadg, J, Donkor M, Scholar E: Inflammatory cell infiltration of tumors: Jekyll or Hyde. Cancer Metast Rev 26:373-400, 2007
Denkert C, Loibl S, Noske A, et al: Tumor-associated lymphocytes as an independent predictor of response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer. J Clin Oncol 28:105-113, 2010
Mlecnik B, Bindea G, Pagès F, et al: Tumor immunosurveillance in human cancer. Cancer Metast Rev 30:5-12, 2011
Accordingly, we are formally retracting this 2011 Journal of Clinical Oncology publication.
What we don’t know from all this is whether the authors lifted text, data or both from the previously published work, which includes another paper in the JCO. What we do know is that, according to their disclosures, they all accepted equal responsibility for the writing and final approval of the manuscript.
Meanwhile, not only is Khayat a titan in the European oncology community — he’s credited with having convinced his home government to declare “war” on cancer — but he seems to be a favorite in the United States, too. The American Society of Clinical Oncology, which publishes the JCO, named him its “Distinguished Achievement Award” for 2011. He’s also president-elect (or perhaps president now, we’re not sure of the timing) of the group’s International Affairs Committee.
We asked ASCO for a comment:
…the content that was in the retracted article was related to text only, there were not associated charts or graphs. If you map the article against the six cited sources listed in the retraction you can see the overlap.
JCO was made aware of the case by email, and has since instituted new measures to stop plagiarism:
…the journal followed policy to evaluate the original published commentary. Since the time of the originally published commentary, the Journal has begun using a new software program to detect duplication of content prior to publication to avoid instances such as this.
Thomas Slaga, whose name appears on the second article listed in the retraction notice, said that paper was the summary of a cancer conference at Aspen and contained information about a wide range of research. Slaga, president of the American Cancer Research Center & Foundation, said he had not been contacted by the JCO about the retraction and was hearing about it for the first time.
We hope to reach one or more of the authors to hear their side of this story.
Update, 12:15 p.m. Eastern, 1/6/12: Khayat and co-author Jean-Philippe Spano sent us the response below. (We are reproducing it verbatim; the second-to-last paragraph appears to be a rough translation from French, eg “plagiat” is “plagiarism” in English.)
We do regret the offence we may have made because of this matter.
In fact, this is not an original paper with original data but only a “Commentary” paper. Altogether, it concerns about 10 lines over a 2 pages Commentary that belonged to authors who have all been cited in the references section of the commentary.
Unfortunately, our PhD, first author, did not quote the reference number, nor cited that these few sentences were coming from these papers by using appropriate quote marks.
We did not have any undue claim of my kind, or discovery or new data/information.
This few lines of literature more than science that constitutes the plagiat, by any means out of specific software program, could not be found out by us when we reviewed before sending it for publication, this commentary.
We are deeply sorry about that.