Errors force retraction of Blood paper on genetics of Hodgkin’s lymphoma

The authors of a paper published last September in Blood about alleged links between certain genes and Hodgkin’s lymphoma have retracted it, after realizing they’d made mistakes in their calculations.

The retraction notice for “Multiple HLA class I and II associations in classical Hodgkin lymphoma and EBV status defined subgroups,” dated January 20 and signed by all of the authors, clearly explains what went wrong, taking pains to note that there was no misconduct involved:

The authors wish to retract the 10 November 2011 article cited above, prepublished on 14 September 2011, because they miscalculated some of the HLA allele frequencies due to missing information on split alleles (mainly in controls). Individuals with missing split allele information were erroneously left out of the analyses, which caused some (3/11) of the reported significant associations to be incorrect. The authors noticed the errors themselves and directly contacted the editors of Blood. It was an honest mistake, not fraud or scientific misconduct. The authors sincerely apologize to the readers, reviewers and editors of Blood for making this unfortunate mistake.

Corresponding author Anke van den Berg told us she had nothing to add:

I think that all relevant information is already mentioned in the retraction and I have no further comments. Our and the journal’s goal was to correct the scientific record.

We asked Blood editor Cynthia Dunbar how the errors came the group’s attention:

Dr. van den Berg contacted us, I believe her group internally discovered the issue. Another investigator also brought the issue to our attention in a letter to the editor submitted a few days later, having read the paper and working the data in comparison with some of his own, realized the control allele frequencies had to be incorrect, but he told me he had not contacted Dr. van den Berg himself.

Hat tip: Clare Francis

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