Another withdrawal by MD Anderson’s Aggarwal, again for unclear reasons

Bharat B. Aggarwal, the MD Anderson researcher under investigation at his institution over concerns of image manipulation, has withdrawn a second paper, although you’d never know why from the statement.

The notice for the article, “Evidence for the critical roles of NF-κB p65 and specificity proteins in the apoptosis-inducing activity of proteasome inhibitors in leukemia cells,” is pretty minimal:

This article has been withdrawn at the request of the author(s) and/or editor. The Publisher apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause. The full Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal can be found at

Does Elsevier’s policy help? The answer is, a little, and not much. According to Elsevier, it withdraws

Articles in Press (articles that have been accepted for publication but which have not been formally published and will not yet have the complete volume/issue/page information) that include errors, or are discovered to be accidental duplicates of other published article(s), or are determined to violate our journal publishing ethics guidelines in the view of the editors, may be “Withdrawn” from ScienceDirect. Withdrawn means that the article content (HTML and PDF) is removed and replaced with a HTML page and PDF simply stating that the article has been withdrawn according to the Elsevier Policy on Article in Press Withdrawal with a link to the current policy document.

As for retractions:

The retraction of an article by its authors or the editor under the advice of members of the scholarly community has long been an occasional feature of the learned world. Standards for dealing with retractions have been developed by a number of library and scholarly bodies, and this best practice is adopted for article retraction by Elsevier:

  • A retraction note titled “Retraction: [article title]” signed by the authors and/or the editor is published in the paginated part of a subsequent issue of the journal and listed in the contents list.
  • In the electronic version, a link is made to the original article.
  • The online article is preceded by a screen containing the retraction note. It is to this screen that the link resolves; the reader can then proceed to the article itself.
  • The original article is retained unchanged save for a watermark on the .pdf indicating on each page that it is “retracted.”
  • The HTML version of the document is removed.

So assuming this policy applies, the Aggarwal paper, which was accepted into BBA’s Molecular Basis of Disease unit, never made it into print. However, there’s some ambiguity about the publication dates here.

We reported on Aggarwal’s first withdrawal, in Cancer Letters, also an Elsevier journal, last month.

We left word for journal editor Jeffrey Keller and will update with anything we learn.

Ironically, the journal involved, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, goes by Aggarwal’s initials (we trust this sort of thing never happened to Norbert Edward James Madison).

15 thoughts on “Another withdrawal by MD Anderson’s Aggarwal, again for unclear reasons”

  1. 600 papers, really? I know, there are some experimental venues who naturally lend themselves to frequent publications, but cell biology ain’t one of them. Wouldn’t be the first overly prolific author, who’s left a long trail of crap, by design or not, for others to clean up.

  2. Dear Adam:
    The notice actually states “This article has been withdrawn at the request of editor. The Publisher apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause.” It does not mention the authors. Not to sound pedantic here, but as the fame of your blog grows, it is important you guys don’t start getting sloppy.

    1. Thanks for the heads-up. Actually, it appears that the notice on the journal site differs from that on PubMed:

      This article has been withdrawn at the request of the author(s) and/or editor. The Publisher apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause. The full Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal can be found at

      The one on the journal’s site is also grammatically incorrect. We’ll see if we can get to the bottom of this.

      1. Thanks for clarifying! As a curcumin enthusiast, I am eagerly following this entire salacious saga. Wonder how all of this will eventually resolve. Wonder if there is an Intrade probablity set up for these scenarios!

  3. It’s all about money-just imagine how low he was been doing it (>10years)
    His salary last year was >200k (Salaries are public at a state institute like MD Anderson)
    For that salary I would believe that the sky is red.

  4. Another 20 papers to add to the current tally of 65….

    PMID 16331273 (Oncogene 2006)
    Fig. 7 – NFKB blots in U937 in panel A and Jurkat in panel B are identical, different exposures

    PMID 16230421 (Cancer Res 2005)
    Fig. 3 – b-actin loading control in panel A, is the same as in Panel C, flipped horizontally

    PMID 16023083 (Biochem Pharmacol 2005)
    Fig. 3A – b-actin loading control used twice for different gels.

    PMID 15970928 (Br J Cancer 2005)
    Fig. 6C – Caspase 3 blot has vertical seam, stitched together, but b-actin control blot below is a single image.
    Fig. 2A & 6C – same b-actin control blot used for unrelated experiments.
    Fig. 7 – Vertical seams suggest stitching of image.

    PMID 15905586 (J Immunol 2005)
    Fig. 4C – PARP control blot used twice in left and right panels, unrelated experimental conditions.
    Fig. 5B – Same blot used again, but this time labeled as a b-actin control instead of PARP.
    Fig. 5C – IKK-B blot is the same in left and right panels, flipped horizontally

    PMID 15710601 (JBC 2005)
    Fig. 6B – b-actin loading control blot is same as Fig. 3A of PMID 15489888 (Oncogene 2004)

    PMID 15489888 (Oncogene 2004)
    Figs. 3A/5 – b-actin loading control blot is identical between 2 figs, and identical to PMID 15710601 as above.
    Figs. 3A/6A – b-actin loading control is identical, for totally different experiments.

    PMID 15383566 (J Immunol 2004)
    Fig. 7A – Clear evidence of splicing blots together (break lines) in p60 and p80 blots.

    PMID 15315973 (Blood 2004)
    Fig. 4A – ERK loading controls (right panel) are identical for samples from p60 and p80 knockout animals.

    PMID 15240695 (J Immunol 2004)
    Fig. 1A/1B – Same Syk loading control blot used for time course and dose response experiments.

    PMID 14711835 (JBC 2004)
    Fig. 2B – First 6 lanes of NFKB EMSA in left panel are identical to first 6 lanes in right panel.
    Fig. 5 – Identical “Medium” blots shown for 2 different experiments in panels A and B.

    PMID 12960358 (J Immunol 2003)
    Fig. 3D/3E – IKK-B blot is identical between right panel (BA treatment) in 3D and last 4 lanes of panel E.

    PMID 12807725 (Carcinogenesis 2003)
    Fig. 4B – Splicing between lanes 1 and 2 of b-actin control

    PMID 12695514 (JBC 2003)
    Fig. 1A – Right lane of p60-/- and p80-/- EMSA blots are identical.
    Fig. 2 – Middle blots in p60-/- and p60-/-p80-/- panels are identical, shifted over by 1 lane.
    Fig. 3B – Lower blots in WT and p60-/-p80-/- panels are identical, shifted over by 1 lane.

    PMID 12483537 (Oncogene 2002)
    Fig. 5 – Evidence of splicing between lanes 1 and 2 in phospho-Rb blot.
    Fig. 7A – Evidence of splicing (step at top of image) between lanes 2 and 3.
    PMID 12189195 (Carcinogenesis 2000)
    Fig. 3 – Evidence of splicing between lanes 2 and 3 in NFKB EMSA for Jurkat cells.

    PMID 12060665 (JBC 2002)
    Fig. 1A – Same b-actin control used for Bcr-Abl and P-Tyr blots (described as separate experiments in legend).
    Fig. 5A – Evidence of splicing between lanes 1 and 2.

    PMID 11756235 (Carcinogenesis 2000)
    Fig. 7 – Splicing/pasting of blots (horizontal contrast seam) in HL-60/Neo blot, and HL-60/Bcl-xL blot.

    PMID 11753638 (Oncogene 2001)
    Fig. 3A – Evidence of vertical splicing of lanes in both Constitutive and TNF-inducible AP1 images.

    PMID 10954916 (J Interferon Cytokine Res 2000)
    Fig. 4B – Evidence of pasting/splicing blots together, lanes 1-3, vertical seams and steps at edge of image.

    PMID 10722693 (JBC 2000)
    Figs. 2A/3B/4A/4B/4C – Same images used for “PV” condition in 5 different experiments.
    Figs. 2B/4A/4B/4C – Same images used for “TNF” condition in 4 different experiments.
    Blots resized and cropped, brightness and contrast altered in above cases, so as to create impression of different images.

    This has been going on for at least a decade!

    1. Another to add

      Carcinogenesis Vol 23, no.1,pp 143-150, 2002.
      Figure 7 showing Effect of curcumin on PARP cleavage – Pasting blots together to make upper 116 kDa bands

    1. Aggarwal comes before Armand….well no offense, he is still considered as an authority in anticancer research…few hiccups here and there – who cares…

      1. In reply to Ressci Integrity March 27, 2012 at 11:04 pm

        You a quite right, it does mean something. It speaks volumes.

  5. Anticancer research is not a highly ranked journal [Impact factor (2010): 1.656]. They probably have not performed a thorough background check. Further, the recruitment probably occured before these negative publications surfaced.

    1. Anticancer Research does know becasue I brought it to the attention of the editor-in-chief.

      ———- Forwarded message ———-
      From: clare francis
      Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2012 15:41:56 +0200
      Subject: 1. Request status of B. B. Aggarwal as editor of Anticancer Res
      2. working on problem of duplicates
      To: editor
      Cc: cope_opsmanager

      Dear John G. Delinassios,

      Many thanks forr your kind reply letting me know that “We are working
      on the problem of duplications”.

      By the way which guidelines, or protocols do you follow? Do you, for
      example, follow the COPE guidelines, which many find very helpful?

      In general:

      For my information: is B. B. Aggarwal, Cytokine Research Laboratory,
      Department of
      Experimental Therapeutics, University of Texas M.D. Anderson
      Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA, still an editor for Anticancer Res?


      On 3/23/12, editor wrote:
      > Dear Clare:
      > Thank you for your new email.
      > We are working on the problem of duplications.
      > With my best wishes,
      > John G. Delinassios

  6. good job Clare. In addition, these people under investigation are contstantly being invited as plenary speakers, keynote speakers and invited speakers to many international journals – still continuing..

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