An official inquiry by the University of Pittsburgh has led to two more retractions for a pair of cancer researchers, Tong Wu and Chang Han. By our count, the pair now have four retractions under their belt, all the result of the university investigation.
The Journal of Biological Chemistry published the notices earlier this month, after it was discovered the papers contained cropped panels, among other issues. Importantly, the two papers appear to even have shared some data.
One 2006 paper, “Modulation of Stat3 Activation by the Cytosolic Phospholipase A2α and Cyclooxygenase-2-controlled Prostaglandin E2 Signaling Pathway,” investigated the molecular actors in cancer growth, such as overexpression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). It has been cited 34 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Here’s the notice:
This article has been retracted by the publisher. An investigation at the University of Pittsburgh found that the blots shown in Fig. 6F appear to be derived from blots shown in Fig. 6G, or vice versa, with some cropping of the panels and that the blots in Fig. 9B were used to represent the results of a different experiment in Fig. 8C of a different article (Han, C. and Wu, T. (2005) Cyclooxygenase-2-derived prostaglandin E2 promotes human cholangiocarcinoma cell growth and invasion through EP1 receptor-mediated activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor and Akt. J. Biol. Chem. 280, 24053–24063).
The other retracted article, “Cyclooxygenase-2-derived Prostaglandin E2 Promotes Human Cholangiocarcinoma Cell Growth and Invasion through EP1 Receptor-mediated Activation of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor and Akt,” also looked at how COX-2-derived prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) promotes cancer growth. The study, published in 2005, has been cited 109 times.
The notice reads:
This article has been retracted by the publisher. An investigation at the University of Pittsburgh found that the EGFR bands in Fig. 2 appeared to be similar to the Akt bands in Fig. 4, and the blots in Fig. 8C were used to represent the results of a different experiment in Fig. 9B of a different article: Han, C., Demetris, A. J., Stolz, D. B., Xu, L., Lim, K., and Wu, T. (2006) Modulation of Stat3 activation by the cytosolic phospholipase A2α and cyclooxygenase-2-controlled prostaglandin E2 signaling pathway. J. Biol. Chem.281, 24831–24846.
Thankfully, these retraction notices are far more informative than what JBC usually posts. We should have known not to get greedy, but we still contacted Kaoru Sakabe — Manager of Publication Issues at the the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which publishes the journal — to see if we could get even more information. No such luck:
Please refer to the retraction statements for details.
Earlier this year, another two studies authored by Wu and Han were retracted for image manipulation as a result of the university investigation. Initial questions about the studies were first raised in 2012 by an anonymous tipster under the pseudonym, Juuichi Jigen. Jigen started a website that highlighted issues with study images in six papers authored by the pair. So far three of these papers have been retracted along with an additional article in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry.
We cannot comment on these manuscripts.
We’ve also asked Cancer Research for an update on the other paper mentioned by Jigen.
Wu and Han are no longer working at the University of Pittsburgh and are now based at Tulane University. We’ve reached out to Tulane and both researchers for a statement. We’ve also contacted the University of Pittsburgh for a comment on the investigation. We’ll add any reply to the story.
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