Nature Cell Biology retracts hotly debated cancer paper

ncbLast week, we learned a 2016 paper heavily discussed on PubPeer might be retracted — today, we learned that Nature Cell Biology has indeed pulled the paper, citing inappropriate image modifications.

As we reported last week, a comment on PubPeer flagged as coming from an author said they had requested a retraction. A representative of National Taiwan University (NTU) told us the first author had resigned, and the paper was under investigation — an investigation which included the last author, a prominent researcher who is also a vice president at another institution in Taiwan.

Here’s Nature Cell Biology‘s official statement about the paper, in the form of a retraction notice that appears to be written by the authors: 

In this Article, we reported that G9a promotes colorectal-cancer-initiating cell self-renewal and function by repressing Let-7b expression in a manner independent of its enzymatic activity, thereby activating K-RAS and β-catenin signalling. However, it has come to our attention that during figure assembly certain images were inappropriately processed and duplicated in several figures of the article, including Figs 1d, 2d, 3b, 5a, 5f, 6h and 8f. In light of these errors and image reuse in multiple figures we have no confidence in the accuracy of the reported data, and the conclusions of the paper may be affected. Therefore, we wish to retract the paper. We deeply regret these circumstances and apologize to the scientific community.

Although the PubPeer comment pins the blame on the first author, Cha Shih-Ting, she is not singled out by the retraction notice.

The last author, Kuo Min-liang — who holds an appointment at NTU, and is also a vice president at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan — has several papers being questioned by PubPeer, which do not include Cha as a co-author. Some of those papers include the current president of NTU, Pan-Chyr Yang, among the list of co-authors.

G9a/RelB regulates self-renewal and function of colon-cancer-initiating cells by silencing Let-7b and activating the K-RAS/β-catenin pathway” was published online in August.

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2 thoughts on “Nature Cell Biology retracts hotly debated cancer paper”

  1. an investigation which included the last author, a prominent researcher who is also a vice president at another institution in Taiwan.

    This is ambiguous. The statement from the NTU leaves it unclear whether the last author is a subject of the investigation, or is helping to direct it.

    1. Probably something that got lost in the translation. The last author is currently a subject of the investigation.

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