Without “confidence in the conclusions,” group retracts prostate cancer paper

redjournalBack in January, we wrote about the retraction of a paper in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology *Biology* Physics, the first from that journal in its 38-year history.

At the time, the journal’s new editor, Anthony Zietman, of Mass General, told us that he was working on a second retraction. That one has arrived.

The paper, “High-Dose Conformal Radiotherapy Reduces Prostate Cancer–Specific Mortality: Results of a Meta-analysis,” came from a team of radiation oncologists in Brazil, and was published last August.

According to the retraction notice:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief and Author.

We regret that we have to retract this article because errors and inconsistencies have been identified in the publication. These primarily involve the extraction of the original trial data used in the analysis. They make it difficult to interpret the results and have confidence in the conclusions. While it would be our preference to publish a corrigendum, the authors do not have the ability to perform another analysis of the data set at this time and thus, for the integrity of both the Journal and the authors, we have chosen retraction. We regret any problems that this may have caused.

Anthony L. Zietman, MD, FASTRO, Editor-in-Chief, on behalf of the Journal

Gustavo A. Viani, MD, corresponding author, on behalf of the authors

When we spoke to Zietman earlier this year, we were impressed by his aggressive stance on catching potentially problematic articles early in the review process. As he told us at the time:

I completely restructured the [review] process and now have a working (and to some partial and token degree, paid) editorial board that is divided by expertise into 9 separate groups (cancer of the breast, cancer of the lung etc). Each editorial group has five experts ( a senior editor and 4 slightly more junior associates) and each group handles a manageable 200-300 manuscripts per year. They read the manuscript, carefully select reviewers, read and assess the quality of the reviews, and then further discuss the paper regarding its quality, its priority, and its credibility. By the time a paper is accepted it has been passed under many sets of eyes thus increasing the chance that errors will be detected before print. We really feel that this process is going to weed out the bad science and, in some (hopefully rare) cases, protect us against the bad actors.

Zietman also told us that he felt this new retraction was an example of

an unsophisticated analysis of complex data and, I think, represents another example of honest error over malfeasance.

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