Lacking “scientific and analytical rigor,” 8-year-old lymphoma paper falls to retraction

leuklympjuly13Leukemia & Lymphoma has retracted 2004 paper by a group of authors in Mexico after concluding that, well, the article never should have been accepted to begin with.

The article, “Adjuvant radiotherapy in stage IV diffuse large cell lymphoma improves outcome,” came from oncologists at the National Medical Center. Its abstract (still available on Medline) states:

The role of adjuvant radiotherapy to sites of nodal bulky disease in patients with aggressive diffuse large cell lymphoma (DLCL), and stage IV remain undefined. We began a prospective controlled clinical trial to evaluate impact in event free survival (EFS) and overall survival (OS) in a large cohort of patients with a longer follow-up. Between 1989 and 1995; 341 patients with aggressive DLCL and presence of nodal bulky disease (tumor mass > 10 cm) in pathological proven complete response after intensive chemotherapy were randomized to received either radiotherapy (involved fields, 40 Gy) or not. The 5-year EFS and OS in radiated patients were respectively: 82% (95% Confidence interval (CI): 70-89%) and 87% (95% 80-99%), that were statistically significant to control group: 55% (41-64%) (P < 0.001) and 66% (95% CI: 51-73%) (P < 0.01) respectively. Radiotherapy was well tolerated, acute toxicity was mild and until now late toxicity did not appear. The use of adjuvant radiotherapy improve EFS and OS and probably the possibility of cure in patients diffuse large cell lymphoma with worse prognostic factors. Thus, we felt that adjuvant radiotherapy will be considered as part of the initial treatment in this setting of patients.

But according to the retraction notice:

Avilés A, Fernándezb R, Pérez F, Nambo MJ, Neri N, Talavera A, Castañeda C, González M, Cleto S. “Adjuvant radiotherapy in stage IV diffuse large cell lymphoma improves outcome.”

The Editors and Publisher regret to announce that the following article published in 2004 has been retracted with the agreement of the first author from publication in Leukemia & Lymphoma:

Avilés A, Fernándezb R, Pérez F, Nambo MJ, Neri N, Talavera A, Castañeda C, González M, Cleto S. Adjuvant radiotherapy in stage IV diffuse large cell lymphoma improves outcome. Leuk Lymphoma. 2004 Jul;45(7):1385–9. (doi: 10.1080/10428190410001667712).

In late 2012, serious concerns about the accuracy of some of the content of this paper published eight years earlier were raised with the Editors. After further investigation and an independent expert review, the Editors contacted the corresponding author seeking clarification.

Upon careful re-evaluation of the data as published in 2004, and consideration of the response from the corresponding author to our queries, the current Editors concluded that the report lacks the required scientific and analytical rigor for publication.

This decision was, in part, due to a lack of clarity and potential subjective interpretation of definitions of Complete Response within the study and how this may have influenced patient inclusion or exclusion. However, there were also issues related to the statistical analyses and interpretation of results. In addition other ambiguities and inconsistencies lead to doubts about the accuracy and robustness of the conclusions.

Unfortunately, the extensive changes necessary to potentially address all of these issues cannot be dealt with in a corrigendum and would require submission of a new manuscript. The decision as to whether this option is pursued rests with the author. It is important to note that these enquiries have not established any evidence of deliberate scientific misconduct by the authors.

The article is herewith withdrawn from all print and electronic editions.

Aaron Polliack, Koen Van Besien, John Seymour (Editors-in-Chief)

Anna Treadway (Head of Journals Publishing, Informa Healthcare)

The paper has been cited 29 times, according to Google Scholar.

Update, 12:30 p.m. Eastern, 6/22/13: As a commenter points out, this group has had another retraction, in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology *Biology*Physics, which we actually covered in January.

0 thoughts on “Lacking “scientific and analytical rigor,” 8-year-old lymphoma paper falls to retraction”

  1. These guys have had another retraction of a 2012 paper published in Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. Very similar to the Leukemia & Lymphoma retraction notice in wording:
    “We regret to announce that we must retract this article because errors have been identified in the publication involving several parts of the study including extraction of data, statistical analyses, and interpretation of results. Unfortunately, such extensive changes cannot be addressed in a corrigendum and would warrant a new manuscript. It is important to note that this is not considered to be the result of scientific misconduct, but rather honest errors by the authors. We regret any problems that this article may have caused and retract it from the literature.”

    1. Bravo. There is hope for justice after all. However, what continues to irritate me time and time again, is the failure on the part of the publishers to admit to their peer review process failing miserably in identifying such errors. I am all for the retraction, but the 100% demonization of the authors is wrong. The publishers have also been irresponsible for having allowed this to get through in the first place. The publishers also share in the negative consequences to the scientific community for allowing this to slip into the literature and then to suddenly make it disappear. When will publishers ALSO be held accountable? Why do I not see more criticisms of the publishers on this blog? Let’s assume that the blame is 70:30 (authors: publishers). Would this not be a fair assessment? Let a spade be called a spade.

      1. Destroying evidence by retracting flawed papers is worrisome. The unavailability of any remedy to those harmed is another concern.

        1. There are other remedies, as is clear from the retraction notice. But in this case, the editors concluded that retraction is the best remedy.

        2. That’s why a retraction notice should be as detailed as possible and clearly state the reason for retraction and in case of errors (honest or not), fraud, misbehavior etc clearly say what was wrong.

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