A 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.
Supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (DE13118 and DE12606 to J.S.) and the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center Pilot Grant Program (to N.N.).
The first 2 authors contributed equally to this work.
Scheper has at least 41 papers listed on PubMed, some with co-authors from the retracted article. But John Sauk, last author of the retracted paper — and the recipient of the NIH grant that supported the work — said he was aware of no other retractions involving Scheper and himself or the other co-authors.
Bruce Jarrell, chief academic and research officer at UMB, told us:
As indicated in the retraction notice in Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology and Oral Radiology, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) conducted an investigation into possible research misconduct based on an allegation by an unknown complainant. This information was relayed to UMB by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Research Integrity, Division of Investigative Oversight. After the Investigation Committee was appointed, we learned of the death of the corresponding author, Dr. Mark Scheper and we have no information on the circumstances of his death. To ensure that the scientific record was correct, the Investigation Committee reviewed other publications by Dr. Scheper and determined that another publication contained manipulated data. UMB has requested the retraction of that article; however, that request is still under consideration and thus the citation is confidential.
It’s our understanding that ORI does not pursue investigations against deceased researchers.