Researchers ask to retract cancer paper five days after it’s flagged by journal

Researchers from the University of Kansas asked to retract their paper only days after the journal issued an expression of concern related to some of the images.

The retraction notice marks the close of an episode that started in June, but it doesn’t provide much closure: Figures in the paper apparently do not match primary data, but there’s no hint as to how that happened.

In a statement sent to JCS — just five days after the expression of concern came out — last author Kristi Neufeld, a cancer biologist at KU, wrote:

This article has been withdrawn by the authors. After notification of inconsistencies in some of the figure panels, the senior author found that Fig. 2A, Fig. 2B and Fig. 3A were not consistent with the primary data. Due to this concern and the length of time required to repeat the experiments in question, the authors wish to retract the paper. We sincerely regret this situation and extend our deepest apologies to the scientific community.

JCS included that statement in its retraction notice for Suppression of intestinal tumorigenesis in Apc mutant mice upon Musashi-1 deletion,” issued Oct. 23. Executive editor Sharon Ahmad said the journal agreed to the retraction on Sept. 26, the day she received Neufeld’s request, but it took about a month to confirm with all the other co-authors that they agreed to the retraction. (On September 28, Ahmad told us the journal was going to update the EoC.)

According to the retraction notice, Neufeld provided the statement “In consultation with the Director of Research Integrity at The University of Kansas,” Susan MacNally.

Neufeld did not respond to a request for comment.

On Sept. 21, JCS issued an expression of concern due to potential image problems identified in the original paper, which was published in January. The paper has not yet been cited, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. The rest of the retraction notice fills in some information about what led to the note of concern:

After concerns were raised by a reader, Journal of Cell Science detected the following issues with the data in the above article:

1) The actin loading control in the +/+ lane of the distal sample in Fig. 2A is identical to the actin loading control in the –/– lane of the proximal sample in Fig. 3A.

2) Both actin loading controls in the proximal sample in Fig. 2B are identical to the actin loading controls in the medial sample in Fig. 3A.

The journal contacted Dr Kristi Neufeld, the corresponding author, who in accordance with institutional policy, referred the issue to the Research Integrity Officer. The journal also contacted the Director of Research Integrity at the University of Kansas.

The notice also said that it “updates and replaces” the EoC for the same paper.

MacNally declined to comment on the retraction.

JCS Executive Editor Ahmad told us that in late June, a reader alerted the journal to “potential issues in the paper,” and that Neufeld asked for time to look into the issues herself. Ahmad said:

We always approach the author first and ask if they can provide an explanation for any potential ethics issues that arise in any paper….

When [Neufeld] was unable to resolve them after about six weeks, I decided to involve the RIO.

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