A “retraction in part” for Anil Potti and colleagues, in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics

A partial retraction has joined the ten retractions and five corrections of Anil Potti’s papers, this one of a 2008 paper in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. The move comes 14 months after the retraction of the Nature Medicine paper upon which much of the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics paper was based.

Here’s the notice:

Retraction in Part: A Genomic Approach to Identify Molecular Pathways Associated with Chemotherapy Resistance

We wish to retract Table 1 and Supplemental Table 1 from our article entitled “A genomic approach to identify molecular pathways associated with chemotherapy resistance,” which was published in the October 2008 issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics (1).

Using previously published annotations for chemotherapy sensitivity in the NCI-60 series of cancer cell lines (2), we performed gene set enrichment analysis on predefined groups of sensitive and resistant NCI-60 cell lines for a range of chemotherapies to identify biological pathways associated with resistance. We purposefully used the annotations for sensitivity and resistance published in the Nature Medicine article and applied a complementary computational approach in order to glean biological insight from the differential gene expression. The article upon which our annotations were based has now been retracted (3). After re-examination, the annotations for the cell lines with respect to chemotherapy sensitivity were erroneous. Thus, our manuscript propagates this error and the results in Table 1 and Supplemental Table 1 from our manuscript are invalid.

The majority of the paper reports our work including in vitro sensitivity testing for 40 lung cancer cell lines, identification of pathways associated with resistance to tested agents, and functional validation of a lead candidate pathway in vitro. These data appear in the remaining Figures 1–7 and Table 2 of the paper and we remain confident in our analysis and findings.

The partial retraction, which appeared online on March 29, 2012, was first reported by DukeCheck. The paper has been cited 29 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

As we’ve noted:

Duke has said that about a third of Potti’s 40-some-odd papers would be retracted, and another third would have “a portion retracted with other components remaining intact.”

We’d seem to be a bit more than halfway through the roughly two dozen papers that will be retracted or corrected. We’ve been keeping a tally here.

As we’ve noted before, partial retractions are rare, and the Committee on Publication Ethics recommends against them:

Partial retractions are not helpful because they make it difficult for readers to determine the status of the article and which parts may be relied upon.

The partial retraction comes a week after the Institute of Medicine recommended stronger oversight of biomarkers, in a report responding to the Potti case.

Hat tip: Steven McKinney

One thought on “A “retraction in part” for Anil Potti and colleagues, in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics”

  1. Quite a detailed analysis of the Potti case in Nature:


    Nature’s attitides are shifting.

    Whereas in September 2010 it wrote:


    “Those involved in the investigation are rightly appalled by the destabilization that these public accusations could cause. Claims of scientific misconduct must be assessed in confidence to protect both accused and whistle-blower from rumours that could prejudice the inquiry.”

    In May 2012 it writes:


    “If the concerns persist, the next step is to decide how to lodge the complaint — either anonymously using telephone hotlines found in many institutes, or in person.”

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