OSU cancer researcher who has faced misconduct allegations sues to regain lost department chairmanship

Carlo Croce

Carlo Croce, the embattled cancer researcher at The Ohio State University (OSU), is suing the institution to reclaim the department chair he lost late last year for reasons that he says are unclear.

In a filing with the Franklin County civil court, Croce and his attorneys, from the Columbus firm of James E. Arnold and Associates, argue that the university failed to follow its own rules for demoting faculty members last year when it stripped Croce of his position of chair of the Department of Cancer Genetics and Biology. Croce had held the post for more than three consecutive four-year terms, starting in October 2004.

The nut of Croce’s claim centers on the alleged failure of K. Craig Kent, the university’s Dean of the College of Medicine, to consult with the college’s faculty members before demoting him in early November 2018 — a move Croce opposed.

The court documents cite a letter containing objections from Croce’s colleagues over the handling of his case. That letter, signed by members of his department, appears to support Croce’s claim that Kent failed to consult them before he acted against Croce. The letter also notes that under Croce’s leadership, the department has become “a flagship” for basic research at Ohio State, receiving the “highest per capita funding” on campus. And it calls Croce “one of the most prominent scientists” at the institution.  

Croce has faced misconduct allegations — reported in March 2017 by The New York Times, whom Croce sued two months later for defamation, in a case that he dropped after most of it was thrown out, so that he could appeal it to a higher court — for years. He has now had nine papers retracted, and more than a dozen papers corrected or subject to an expression of concern.

Croce is demanding that the university reinstate him to his chairmanship immediately and then submit the matter to the faculty, as specified in the school’s bylaws, according to the court documents.

OSU was not able to respond to our request for comment by deadline.

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15 thoughts on “OSU cancer researcher who has faced misconduct allegations sues to regain lost department chairmanship”

  1. What a metric!

    ““highest per capita funding” on campus. ”

    What has that got to do with scientific quality?

    If that is due to Carlo Croce OSU has overcome its conflict of interest. hats off to OSU!

  2. The letter is well worth a read for its sheer incredulity on several levels.

    First, it uses phrases such as “arbitrary”, “unilateral” and “absence of any information” to describe the dismissal situation. Have these people been living under a rock for the past 5 years? Surely they can’t be that naive?

    Second, the letter commits a logical error by referring to several metrics and feats of Dr. Croce (publications, awards, etc.) as positives, while failing to acknowledge some of those very same metrics may be the result of problematic work.

    Third, the letter is signed only by the 14 tenured faculty of the department, not the 13 non-tenured members. As such, those signing it really have nothing to lose. It’s also notable that 6 at least 6 of the signatories appear to have co-authored papers with Croce, creating an apparent conflict-of-interest.

    1. “Have these people been living under a rock for the past 5 years? Surely they can’t be that naive?”

      Surely Kay Huebner would have known about this 2017 expression of concern? What led to it is described in the New York Times.

      Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Oct 25;102(43):15611-6. Epub 2005 Oct 13.
      WWOX gene restoration prevents lung cancer growth in vitro and in vivo.
      Fabbri M1, Iliopoulos D, Trapasso F, Aqeilan RI, Cimmino A, Zanesi N, Yendamuri S, Han SY, Amadori D, Huebner K, Croce CM.
      Author information
      Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology, and Medical Genetics, Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ohio State University, 410 West 12th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43201, USA.

      2017 expression of concern.
      MEDICAL SCIENCES PNAS is publishing an Editorial Expression of Concern regarding the following article: “WWOX gene restoration prevents lung cancer growth in vitro and in vivo,” by Muller Fabbri, Dimitrios Iliopoulos, Francesco Trapasso, Rami I. Aqeilan, Amelia Cimmino, Nicola Zanesi, Sai Yendamuri, Shuang-Yin Han, Dino Amadori, Kay Huebner, and Carlo M. Croce, which appeared in issue 43, October 25, 2005, of Proc Natl Acad Sci USA (102:15611–15616; first published October 13, 2005; 10.1073/pnas.0505485102).

      The editors wish to note that Fig. 1B, β-actin panel, appears to have duplicated bands. The authors note that “because this issue was first raised more than 7 years after publication, the original data are not available to confirm whether an error was made in the figure construction.” However, the authors state that any error in figure construction does not affect their scientific conclusions.

      The authors have provided an image from a replicate experiment completed in 2014 which, the authors state, “confirms the results shown in Figure 1B. This confirmation supports the conclusions in this work.” The image for Fig. 1B and its legend appear below.

      Inder M. Verma



      “The paper, published in 2005 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is on something called the WWOX gene, thought to be a tumor suppressor. Dr. Sanders said the students invariably noticed that lanes 6, 7 and 8 in one row of blots had apparently been duplicated into the immediately adjacent lanes — 3, 4, and 5 — which are supposed to have come from different experimental samples.

      “This is the one I start with because it’s so obvious,” Dr. Sanders said. “There’s uncomfortable laughter. They say, ‘Why would these people get away with that?’” When he adds that the journal declined to take action, he said, “They’re very stunned that that sort of thing happens.”

      In response to questions from The Times, the journal said that two “subject experts” it consulted after Dr. Sanders challenged the paper in 2014 “disagreed on whether the images were duplicates.” Therefore, the journal said, editors “could not conclusively determine” whether to issue a notice.”

      “As for Dr. Croce’s work, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has reversed its stance.

      After being contacted by The Times, the journal’s editor, Ms. Sullenberger, consulted with Dr. O’Brien at Berkeley and other analysts. The expert who in 2014 thought the duplication was unlikely, she said, now “accepts the new analyses because of their sophisticated nature.”

      The journal, Ms. Sullenberger said, is now planning to issue a notice to readers about concerns regarding the WWOX paper.”

  3. “It’s also notable that 6 at least 6 of the signatories appear to have co-authored papers with Croce, creating an apparent conflict-of-interest.”


    Kay Huebner has a retraction with Carlo Croce.
    VOLUME 283 (2008) PAGES 13736–13744

    “This article has been withdrawn by the authors because of errors that occurred in the construction of Figs. 1D, 3C, 5C, and 5H, and supplemental Fig. 1A have been brought to their attention. The authors state that the errors do not affect the conclusions of the article, which have been confirmed in subsequent articles.”


  4. Oncogene. 2006 May 11;25(20):2860-72.
    Fhit modulation of the Akt-survivin pathway in lung cancer cells: Fhit-tyrosine 114 (Y114) is essential.
    Semba S1, Trapasso F, Fabbri M, McCorkell KA, Volinia S, Druck T, Iliopoulos D, Pekarsky Y, Ishii H, Garrison PN, Barnes LD, Croce CM, Huebner K.
    Author information
    Comprehensive Cancer Center and Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology, and Medical Genetics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, 43210, USA.

    See: https://pubpeer.com/publications/DCE5512C156A3C82EF17B5DB7F88A9#4

  5. Cancer Lett. 2010 May 28;291(2):230-6. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2009.10.017
    Fhit loss in lung preneoplasia: Relation to DNA damage response checkpoint activation
    Roberto Cirombella a Giuseppe Montrone b Antonella Stoppacciaro a SimonaGiglio a StefanoVolinia c PaoloGraziano b KayHuebner c AndreaVecchione a c
    a Division of Pathology, II University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Ospedale Santo Andrea, Rome, Italy
    b Division of Pathology, Ospedale San Camillo Forlanini, Rome, Italy
    c Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics and Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ohio State University, OH, USA.

    See: https://pubpeer.com/publications/499D4D40914B863806C7A6E10B34AE#7

    See in general:

    2015 correction.

    “Due to mistakes in the assembly of Fig. 1, noted several years after publication of this report, the original Fig. 1 should be replaced by the revised Fig. 1 (below).” New photographs were taken from the original slides to compose this revised figure. The correction to this figure does not change the conclusion of the paper.”

    Did the authors note the mistakes, or was it somebody else?

  6. Problematic Carlo Croce and Samson T Jacob data.

    Cancer Res. 2008 Jul 1;68(13):5049-58. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-6655.
    Methylation mediated silencing of MicroRNA-1 gene and its role in hepatocellular carcinogenesis.
    Datta J1, Kutay H, Nasser MW, Nuovo GJ, Wang B, Majumder S, Liu CG, Volinia S, Croce CM, Schmittgen TD, Ghoshal K, Jacob ST.
    Author information
    Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, College of Pharmacy, and Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.

    See: https://pubpeer.com/publications/7B5F9FE4302EBDE46F41EAF79B0A53

  7. Mol Cell Biol. 2000 Jul;20(14):5330-42.
    A pentamer transcriptional complex including tal-1 and retinoblastoma protein downmodulates c-kit expression in normal erythroblasts.
    Vitelli L1, Condorelli G, Lulli V, Hoang T, Luchetti L, Croce CM, Peschle C.
    Author information
    Department of Hematology-Oncology, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, 00161 Rome, Italy.

    See: https://pubpeer.com/publications/63CD0FBC5DDD651B661C228A7DB8FF

  8. Nat Med. 2007 May;13(5):613-8. Epub 2007 Apr 29.
    MicroRNA-133 controls cardiac hypertrophy.
    Carè A1, Catalucci D, Felicetti F, Bonci D, Addario A, Gallo P, Bang ML, Segnalini P, Gu Y, Dalton ND, Elia L, Latronico MV, Høydal M, Autore C, Russo MA, Dorn GW 2nd, Ellingsen O, Ruiz-Lozano P, Peterson KL, Croce CM, Peschle C, Condorelli G.
    Author information
    Department of Hematology, Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Istituto Superiore Sanità, 00161 Rome, Italy.

    Figure 1C
    Background leftmost 2 lanes same, yet “miR-133” (band) signal different.
    See:- https://pubpeer.com/publications/73F453EB41FB399CE1A5B344777741#1

    miR-133 panel. The bands in the leftmost lane (ventricles), and the second rightmost lane (atria) share many features, yet the background in these lanes is different.
    See: https://pubpeer.com/publications/73F453EB41FB399CE1A5B344777741#7

  9. Mol Cell Biol. 2007 Mar;27(5):1889-903. Epub 2006 Dec 18.
    Knockdown of ALR (MLL2) reveals ALR target genes and leads to alterations in cell adhesion and growth.
    Irina Issaeva 1, Yulia Zonis 1, Tanya Rozovskaia 1, Kira Orlovsky 1, Carlo M. Croce 2, Tatsuya Nakamura 2, Alex Mazo 3, Lea Eisenbach 4 and Eli Canaani 1*
    1Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel
    2Institute of Genetics and Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43221
    3Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
    4Department of Immunology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.
    Problematic data.
    See: https://pubpeer.com/publications/71A439A2FC851D53B883E576B91A86

  10. By suing OSU Carlo Croce is behaving like Piero Anversa at Harvard. In Piero Anversa’s case this resulted in Harvard calling for 31 retractions, although this did take an unduly long 5 years.

    There is plenty of on the page evidence of problematic data in publications by Carlo Croce for retractions to be requested by OSU. At present it is uncertain if OSU has requested any of the 9 retractions so far.

    It is up to OSU in the first place to detemine if any scientific misconduct has occurred. At most universities scientific misconduct counts as gross misconduct, which is grounds for dismissal, not just demotion. Why should OSU be any different, or it is going for the halfway house of demotion. Is OSU still conflicted because of money? What a signal to send!

  11. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Mar 19;99(6):3615-20. Epub 2002 Mar 12.
    Restoration of fragile histidine triad (FHIT) expression induces apoptosis and suppresses tumorigenicity in lung and cervical cancer cell lines.
    Roz L1, Gramegna M, Ishii H, Croce CM, Sozzi G.
    Author information
    Luca Roz
    *, Marcella Gramegna*, Hideshi Ishii†, Carlo M. Croce†, and Gabriella Sozzi*‡
    *Department of Experimental Oncology, Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Via Venezian 1, 20133 Milan, Italy; and †Kimmel Cancer Center, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, 233 South 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
    Contributed by Carlo M. Croce

    Figure 1. Much more similar than you would expect.
    See: https://imgur.com/T9Ykmac

  12. When OSU President Dr Holbrook made some disparaging comments about the football culture at the University in an interview to a small-time newspaper, she was swiftly removed from her position and replaced by a proper (football-loving non-scientist) president. Outside of criticizing football and its fans, your indiscretions are not that important. What happened to Dr Croce was long overdue, and OSU administration stood up by him – not so much because of the money he brought in, but the amount of money OSU poured into his unrealized stardom. Another chairperson, Dr Ching-Shih Chen, was forced to resign years after his scientific fraud became apparent. A number of other faculty members were sanctioned by an overworked NIH ORI for misconduct, and kept their jobs. OSU internal investigations repeatedly “missed” or remained undecided in other instances, at least on first try. Professor of marketing resigned after being convicted for insider trading. Another professor was fired for not reporting and inappropriately accepting speaking fees. Tell you what, google OSU and fraud, and tell me if you see a theme developing.

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