Retraction count for Italian researcher swells to 15 as five papers fall

A researcher who is facing a criminal investigation in Italy for research misconduct has seen five more papers retracted, for a total of 16 15.

Molecular and Cellular Biology has retracted four papers published between 1987 to 2001 by Alfredo Fusco, a cancer researcher in Italy; the Journal of Virology retracted one 1985 paper. Fusco was first author on two papers and last author on three. Both journals are published by The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), which issued identical retraction notices for all five papers, mentioning “evidence of apparent manipulation and duplication.”

Carlo Croce, a cancer researcher now at the Ohio State University, who has been dogged by misconduct allegations, co-authored one of the papers.  Croce now has eight retractions.

Here’s the notice presented for all five retractions:

The publisher hereby retracts this article. Questions have been raised by concerned readers about the integrity of the data. The American Society for Microbiology has reviewed the figures and confirmed evidence of apparent manipulation and duplication. Since the integrity of the data as presented was compromised, this publication is retracted in its entirety. We apologize to the readers of [the journal] and regret any inconvenience that this causes. The authors did not agree to this retraction.

Fusco and Croce did not respond to Retraction Watch’s request for comment. Neither did Giancarlo Vecchio, an emeritus professor at the University of Naples Federico II who was last author for the two papers where Fusco was first author.

In 2013, we reported that Fusco had been charged with criminal research misconduct by Italian authorities. In May 2017, Nature reported that researchers in Italy were frustrated by the lack of progress in the ongoing investigation:

Researchers frustrated by the case’s slow progress have now told Nature that there is strong evidence that dozens of papers may contain manipulated data — and that a commercial photography studio was called in to cut and paste images. They say they are speaking out about the magnitude of the allegations because of their increasing impatience with the slow pace of investigations by police and by academic authorities. The failure to resolve the affair is harming Italian science, they say.

Fusco has denied the allegations.

Here’s the list of the four recently retracted papers in Molecular and Cellular Biology:

And “A mos Oncogene-Containing Retrovirus, Myeloproliferative Sarcoma Virus, Transforms Rat Thyroid Epithelial Cells and Irreversibly Blocks Their Differentiation Pattern,” published in 1985 in the Journal of Virology, has 45 citations and was retracted Feb. 26.

Croce has also been involved in legal battles, but as the plaintiff: He is suing the New York Times and Purdue University professor David Sanders for defamation, over allegations of misconduct raised by Sanders in a March 2017 Times story. Croce denies the allegations. 

On Friday, an external review into OSU’s probe of the allegations against Croce concluded that the university had “reached reasoned and supportable conclusions.” (Stay tuned for more coverage about this story.)

Croce has recently received several prestigious awards for his work, including a share of the Dan David Prize in February — which came with $300,000 — and the 2017 Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research, from the American Association for Cancer Research.

We reached out to ASM for comment, but did not receive a response.

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3 thoughts on “Retraction count for Italian researcher swells to 15 as five papers fall”

  1. Another Alfredo Fusco paper with problematic data.

    Published online before print December 10, 2003, doi: 10.1091/mbc.E03-09-0638
    Mol. Biol. Cell March 1, 2004 vol. 15 no. 3 1224-1232
    http://www.molbiolcell.org/content/15/3/1224.full.pdf+html
    Phosphorylation of High-Mobility Group Protein A2 by Nek2 Kinase during the First Meiotic Division in Mouse Spermatocytes
    Silvia Di Agostino*, Monica Fedele†, Paolo Chieffi‡, Alfredo Fusco†, Pellegrino Rossi*, Raffaele Geremia*, and Claudio Sette*§

    Affiliations
    * Dipartimento di Sanità Pubblica e Biologia Cellulare, University of Rome “Tor Vergata,” 00133 Rome, Italy
    † Istituto di Endocrinologia e Oncologia Sperimentale del CNR c/o Dipartimento di Biologia e Patologia Cellulare e Molecolare, University of Naples “Federico II,” 80131 Naples, Italy
    ‡ Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, II University of Naples, 80138 Naples, Italy

    Figure 2A. https://imgur.com/Iytqvyy

  2. From: https://www.nature.com/news/image-search-triggers-italian-police-probe-1.14295

    “When details of the inquiry were leaked to an Italian newspaper in October, the rector of Fusco’s university set up a three-man internal committee headed by Roberto Di Lauro, vice-rector for research at the University of Naples, that is expected to report by the end of the year. Di Lauro has co-authored nine papers with Fusco, but says that he will resign from the committee if any of these papers feature in the investigation.”

    Roberto di Lauro is co-author of one of the retractions metioned in your post. In fact this one.
    http://jvi.asm.org/content/92/6/e02169-17.full

    Retraction for Fusco et al., “A mos Oncogene-Containing Retrovirus, Myeloproliferative Sarcoma Virus, Transforms Rat Thyroid Epithelial Cells and Irreversibly Blocks Their Differentiation Pattern”
    Alfredo Fusco1, Giuseppe Portella1, Pier Paolo Di Fiore1, Maria Teresa Berlingieri1, Roberto Di Lauro1, Arthur B. Schneider2 and Giancarlo Vecchio1

    Author Affiliations
    1Centro di Endocrinologia ed Oncologia Sperimentale del CNR, c/o Dipartimento di Biologia e Patologia Cellulare e Molecolare, Il Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia dell’Università di Napoli, 80131 Naples, Italy
    2Michel Reese Hospital and Medical Center, Endo-Metab. cc615, Chicago, Illinois 60616

    It is surprising that Roberto di Lauro did not see nine papers in common amounted to a conflict of interest.

    PP di Fiore, presently editor of J Cell Biol, which was one of the pioneers in upholding data intergrity, is co-author on two of the retractions.
    This one,
    http://mcb.asm.org/content/38/6/e00663-17.full
    Retraction for Fusco et al., “One- and Two-Step Transformations of Rat Thyroid Epithelial Cells by Retroviral Oncogenes”
    A. Fusco, M. T. Berlingieri, P. P. Di Fiore, G. Portella, M. Grieco and G. Vecchio

    Author Affiliations
    Centro di Endocrinologia ed Oncologia Sperimentale del C.N.R., Dipartimento di Biologia e Patologia Cellulare e Molecolare, “L. Califano” II Facoltá di Medicina e Chirurgia dell’Universitá di Napoli, 80131 Naples, Italy

    and this one.
    http://jvi.asm.org/content/92/6/e02169-17.full
    Retraction for Fusco et al., “A mos Oncogene-Containing Retrovirus, Myeloproliferative Sarcoma Virus, Transforms Rat Thyroid Epithelial Cells and Irreversibly Blocks Their Differentiation Pattern”
    Alfredo Fusco1, Giuseppe Portella1, Pier Paolo Di Fiore1, Maria Teresa Berlingieri1, Roberto Di Lauro1, Arthur B. Schneider2 and Giancarlo Vecchio1

    Author Affiliations
    1Centro di Endocrinologia ed Oncologia Sperimentale del CNR, c/o Dipartimento di Biologia e Patologia Cellulare e Molecolare, Il Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia dell’Università di Napoli, 80131 Naples, Italy
    2Michel Reese Hospital and Medical Center, Endo-Metab. cc615, Chicago, Illinois 60616

    http://jcb.rupress.org/content/editors-and-staff
    Pier Paolo Di Fiore, Editor
    Pier Paolo Di Fiore is the founder of IFOM, an internationally competitive research center, where he carries out most of his research. His work focuses on cancer, particularly on the mechanisms of signal transduction by growth factor receptors in tumors and the role of endocytosis in this process. He is Full Professor of General Pathology at Milan University, and he cofounded the European School of Medicine, which provides PhD programs in molecular medicine, medical nanotechnology, and bioethics. Di Fiore’s life’s work is widely recognized, as witnessed by more than 170 published papers. He was made an EMBO member in 1998 and has received numerous international awards.

  3. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Jan;87(1):370-9.
    RET activation and clinicopathologic features in poorly differentiated thyroid tumors.
    Santoro M1, Papotti M, Chiappetta G, Garcia-Rostan G, Volante M, Johnson C, Camp RL, Pentimalli F, Monaco C, Herrero A, Carcangiu ML, Fusco A, Tallini G.
    Author information
    1
    Centro di Endocrinologia ed Oncologia Sperimentale del Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Dipartimento di Biologia e Patologia Cellulare e Molecolare, Università di Napoli Federico II, 80131 Naples, Italy.

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/BB727DB41872C9C231C1E25F9C24BD

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