UK doctor banned from practice after fabricating data in grant applications

Queen Mary University of LondonA prominent cancer researcher in England has been banned from practicing medicine and has lost his funding from a UK charity after being found to have fabricated data in grant applications.

The moves against the researcher, Thorsten Hagemann, come after investigations by the General Medical Council, akin to a U.S. state medical board, and Hagemann’s former institution, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), turned up evidence of misconduct. In June, we reported on the retraction of a meeting abstract in The Journal of Pathology and the corrigendum of a Nature paper by Hagemann following the inquiry at QMUL.

A spokesperson from the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service told the Evening Standard:

The MPTS tribunal has announced its decision [to] erase Dr Hagemann’s name from the medical register.

The MPTS spokesperson added:

It also decided it was necessary to impose an immediate order of suspension to cover the 28 day appeal period.

David Scott, director of science funding at Cancer Research UK, sent us this statement:

Cancer Research UK was informed of an allegation of research fraud involving Professor Hagemann. We take all allegations of scientific misconduct extremely seriously and in line with policy the host university QMUL investigated the allegation. The investigation found evidence of research misconduct and Cancer Research UK terminated funding to Professor Hagemann.

The Evening Standard reported that Hagemann submitted “inflated figures” in a paper published in Nature. The corrigendum to the paper is available here

(For those who are interested, Cancer Research UK took a somewhat different approach last year in its dealings with another grantee with problematic images.)

In 2013, Hagemann received £180,000 from the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (PCRF) to look to examine

the role of a newly described population of regulatory B cells, which play a central role in suppressing the body’s immune response and have been shown to promote tumour growth in animal models.

The aims of the three-year study were

confirm[ing] the cells’ role in human tumour development, defining the sequence of chemical interactions that regulate their function …

But the PCRF did not ask for a refund their grant, said Maggie Blanks, the charity’s CEO, who said the science was “sound and showed potential.” Subsequently, the PCRF decided to continue the project under the direction of a different researcher at QMUL. 

A QMUL spokesperson said:

We are not making further comments pending the publication of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service’s written decision when we will review our response.

According to the Evening Standard, Hagemann did not attend his MPTS hearing, and has left the UK.

Hagemann is listed as a member of the core management team of biopharmaceutical company Immodulon Therapeutics, which he joined in October 2015A spokesperson from the firm told us:

We can confirm that Thorsten Hagemann is an immunologist and translational expert at Immodulon Therapeutics and that clinical data are managed by third party vendors. Immodulon is aware of the recent issue with the GMC, but it has no bearing on the role that Thorsten carries out at the company. 

Another famous case of a doctor being kicked off the medical register is that of Andrew Wakefield, whose now-retracted paper in The Lancet suggested a link between MMR vaccine and autism (which is the second on our list of the ten most highly cited retracted papers).

We were unable to find the current contact details for Hagemann.

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6 thoughts on “UK doctor banned from practice after fabricating data in grant applications”

  1. A correction: Queen Mary University of London has no possessive in its name (it was formally known as Queen Mary College).

  2. Maggie Blanks, the charity’s CEO, who said the science was “sound and showed potential.”

    What is her evidence? That should be available now for all to see.

  3. Thorsten Hagemann has reinvented himself:

    It doesn’t directly claim that he’s a physician, but it does still state:
    “Hagemann earned his Doctor of Medicine in 2002. He later went on to specialize in several key areas of medicine, including Internal Medicine, Haematology, and Medical Oncology.”

    Dodgy, dodgy, dodgy.

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