Cancer Research retraction is fifth for Robert Weinberg; fourth for his former student

13.coverAnother domino has fallen in a chain of retractions for Robert Weinberg, the man who discovered the first tumor-causing gene in humans, along with the first tumor suppressor gene: Cancer Research just retracted a paper of his on some of the molecular steps to metastasis.

The paper, “Concurrent Suppression of Integrin α5, Radixin, and RhoA Phenocopies the Effects of miR-31 on Metastasis,” has been cited 70 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. As we have noted before, Weinberg’s papers are frequently highly cited. His bio at the Whitehead Institute bills him as “a pioneer in cancer research.”

Four of Weinberg’s retracted papers — including this latest — share a first author: Scott Valastyan, once a very promising grad student in Weinberg’s lab. 

This retraction, like Valastyan’s others, is linked to his retracted 2009 Cell paper. (That paper was cited 482 times, and there’s even a video from the Cell press office to go with it).

The retraction note explains the connection to that “earlier publication,” using very similar language to the notices for the two other papers that were felled by the faulty Cell paper:

The authors wish to retract the article titled “Concurrent Suppression of Integrin α5, Radixin, and RhoA Phenocopies the Effects of miR-31 on Metastasis,” which was published in the June 15, 2010, issue of Cancer Research (1). This study investigated the mechanisms by which miR-31 regulates different aspects of breast cancer metastasis. The authors have retracted their earlier publication (2) because original data were compiled from different replicate experiments in order to assemble certain figure panels, leading to comparisons of selectively chosen data points from multiple experiments. As the same analytical methodology was used in this article, the authors believe that the responsible course of action is to retract it. The authors apologize for any inconvenience they have caused.

All of the authors have agreed to this Retraction.

Sumiko Williams, the Administrative Lab Manager at Weinberg’s lab, told us he was “out of the country attending a conference,” and “out of email contact.” We will update this post if we hear back from Weinberg.

We tried to get in touch with Valastyan, too. A 2012 paper pegged him in the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School, but an email to his Harvard address bounced.

Just a few years ago, Valastyan had lot of money placed on his potential as a researcher, as we’ve noted before: In 2011, he was the recipient of the $156,000 Runyon award — which, in the words of the Harvard Gazette, “encourages the nation’s most promising young scientists to pursue careers in cancer research.” He had planned studies that “will provide insights that further our comprehension of metastatic progression and suggest novel targets for the diagnosis and/or treatment of human breast cancer,” says the Gazette blurb.

Valastyan apparently hasn’t published a paper since 2012.

We’ve also reached out to the editor in chief of Cancer Research, who told us to “direct further inquiries” to the authors of the paper.

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5 thoughts on “Cancer Research retraction is fifth for Robert Weinberg; fourth for his former student”

  1. Has anyone, or organization, started to audit meta-analyses, systematic reviews, practice guidelines, etc – to determine the impact of these retractions? I’ve said too much, someone is going to steal my idea and patent it.


    J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2016 Aug 20. [Epub ahead of print]
    Retraction Note to: Roles of MicroRNAs and Other Non-coding RNAs in Breast Cancer Metastasis.
    Valastyan S1.
    Author information
    Retraction of
    Roles of microRNAs and other non-coding RNAs in breast cancer metastasis. [J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2012]
    PMID: 27544761 DOI: 10.1007/s10911-016-9360-9

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