Fraud retraction appears for deceased Maryland dental researcher

osomoporeA former dental researcher at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, has lost a 2009 paper in the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology and Endodontology for fabricating his data on an NIH-funded study.

The researcher, Mark A. Scheper, is not identified in the retraction notice as the person implicated in the university investigation. However, one of his co-authors confirmed his involvement. Scheper died in January 2014 at age 45 of natural causes, according to the Maryland State Medical Examiner.

The article was titled “The oncogenic effects of constitutive Stat3 signaling in salivary gland cancer cells are mediated by survivin and modulated by the NSAID sulindac.” It appeared online in March 2009, and has been cited six times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

According to the abstract:


Constitutive activation of the signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (Stat3) has been detected in various human cancers and has been linked to tumor development and progression. Oncogenic Stat3 signaling results in induction of specific target genes, among which survivin is implicated in the proliferation and survival of cancer cells. Targeting of Stat3 constitutive expression by the nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID) sulindac has been demonstrated to exert antineoplastic effects in oral squamous cell carcinoma cells in vitro and in vivo.


The expression and functional role of Stat3 and survivin was evaluated in 2 salivary gland adenocarcinoma cell lines (HSY and HSG). In addition, the effects of the NSAID sulindac and other cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitors on Stat3 and survivin expression and on cell proliferation and apoptosis of HSY and HSG cells were analyzed.


Messenger RNA and protein expression of Stat3 and survivin was detected in HSY and HSG cell lines. Treatment of these cells with siRNA against Stat3 or survivin inhibited cell proliferation and induced apoptosis. Moreover, Stat3 siRNA treatment down-regulated the protein and mRNA expression of survivin, and survivin forced expression partially reversed the antineoplastic effects of Stat3 siRNA treatment. Treatment of HSY and HSG cells with the NSAID sulindac, but not other COX inhibitors, induced significant decreases in cell proliferation and increases in apoptosis, accompanied by down-regulation of Stat3 and survivin expression. In contrast, survivin forced expression or transfection with constitutively active Stat3 attenuated the effects of sulindac on cell growth and apoptosis.


Taken together, these data support the importance of the constitutive Stat3 signaling for growth and survival of salivary gland cancer cells through the induction of survivin. Inhibition of the oncogenic Stat3-survivin pathway in these cells can be achieved by selective targeting techniques or treatment with the NSAID sulindac and holds promise for the treatment of salivary gland cancer.

The retraction notice states:

This article has been retracted at the request of the editor-in-chief. The University of Maryland, Baltimore confirmed that research misconduct took place and has recommended that the article be retracted because it contains falsified experiments.

5 thoughts on “Fraud retraction appears for deceased Maryland dental researcher”

  1. It’s our understanding that ORI does not pursue investigations against deceased researchers.

    Nor (I would think) could they.

    But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t pursue investigations to set the scientific record straight, when it may have been made crooked by misconduct: they are not the Office of Researcher Integrity, they are the Office of Research Integrity, and their mission is—or (by my lights) ought to be— to help ensure the integrity of the body of research (that was funded by the relevant agencies), even when the body of the researcher is dead and buried.

  2. The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) cannot “ensure the integrity of the body of research” that “may have been made crooked by misconduct” — that is far too broad a scope for any Federal regulatory office. ORI is authorized to pursue findings of research misconduct against persons (and they are allowed be regulation to respond to such proposals), but if they are dead, such proposals cannot be pursued. However, ORI in its normal oversight process can recommend that the authors, institutional officials, and editors consider retraction of a paper found to be the result of research misconduct. ORI has no authority to make them do so, but they could do so themselves, even if the respondent is dead (we have seen several such case on Retraction Watch postings). But ORI cannot require an editor or publisher to retract a paper.

  3. Zoledronic acid directly suppresses cell proliferation and induces apoptosis in highly tumorigenic prostate and breast cancers.
    Almubarak H, Jones A, Chaisuparat R, Zhang M, Meiller TF, Scheper MA.
    J Carcinog. 2011 Jan 15;10:2. doi: 10.4103/1477-3163.75723.
    PMID: 21297922

    2015 retraction notice.

    J Carcinog. 2015 Feb 23;14:2. doi: 10.4103/1477-3163.151965. eCollection 2015.
    Zoledronic acid directly suppresses cell proliferation and induces apoptosis in highly tumorigenic prostate and breast cancers: Retraction.

    [This retracts the article on p. 1 in vol. 10, PMID: 21297921.].
    Retraction of
    Inhibitory effects of Indigofera aspalathoides on 20-methylcholanthrene-induced chemical carcinogenesis in rats. [J Carcinog. 2011]

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