Oops: Supposedly untreated cancer patients had surgery, after all

gmrThe first author of a 2016 paper has retracted it after realizing that all the lung cancer patients that were supposed to have been untreated did, in fact, have surgery to remove their tumors. 

Zhao Kai, the study’s first author from the Qilu Hospital of Shandong University and Zibo Central Hospital (both in China), took full responsibility for the error.

Here’s the retraction notice, published last month in Genetics and Molecular Research:

Zhao Kai, first author wishes to retract the following article:

According to the author, the reasons for the retraction are as follows:

– All patients enrolled in the study received surgical resection and lymph node dissection. So the patients’ information was incorrect. Then, the corresponding information and data need to be collected again and reanalyzed.

– The P value for Figure 1 was calculated by the log-rank test. Since the data need to be reanalyzed, the 95% confidence intervals for the average survival times also need to be recalculated.

– The author intends to synthesize new primer sequences for the genotyping of the IL-6 SNPs and restart the detection. The follow-up data need to be collected again and then the survival analysis also needs to be reanalyzed and investigate IL-6 levels in the patients to determine if the levels of IL-6 correlate with the survival effects.

The first author contacted GMR to voluntarily report this inaccuracy and to request a retraction. He takes full responsibility for the error and apologizes to the journal, its readers, and the other authors.

The original paper, “Correlation analysis between an IL-6 genetic polymorphism and non-small cell lung cancer prognosis,” was published in March.

It’s hard to know the ramifications of the error on the study’s findings — and how the authors could have not realized the patients had all received surgery.

In the paper, patient information was stated as the following:

Between 1999 and 2012, 434 patients with NSCLC were enrolled in this study. The mean age of the selected patients was 64.0 ± 10.25 years. The inclusion criteria were: NSCLC diagnosed by histology or cytology with no anti-tumor therapy except to relieve symptoms; Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group score £2; and no other tumors present. Patients lacking tissue typing were excluded from the study. Smoking status was defined as the patient continuing to smoke after diagnosis. All patients provided written consent and the study was approved by the institutional review board in Zibo Central Hospital.

Genetics and Molecular Research is on librarian Jeffrey Beall’s list of potential, possible, or probable predatory” scholarly journals.

We’ve reached out to last author H. Tian, who is based at Qilu Hospital of Shandong University, for a comment. We weren’t able to find contact details for Zhao.

We’ve also contacted Francisco A. Moura Duarte, the journal’s editor-in-chief, based at the University of São Paulo in Brazil.

We’ll update the post with anything else we learn.

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One thought on “Oops: Supposedly untreated cancer patients had surgery, after all”

  1. Well, “Department of Thoracic” as an afiliation seems to lack something. Also, the pound sign in the ECOG score makes no sense. Bet it was e.g. smaller or equal sign at some point. In methods, “proportional analysis” misses “hazards” between these words. Etc. Speaks volumes about (lack of) copy editing, if not the review process.

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