Cancer surgery group in China may lose second paper

After whistleblowers in China prompted the retraction of a 2018 paper that overstated the number of patients treated in a study, another journal says it’s investigating a second article by the same group.

Last month, as we reported, the Journal of Surgical Oncology retracted “Long‐term outcomes of 530 esophageal squamous cell carcinoma patients with minimally invasive Ivor Lewis esophagectomy.” The move was prompted by whistleblowers who notified the journal that the 530 cases could not have been performed at the authors’ institution, Zhejiang University, in Hangzhou. 

After our post, a Twitter user pointed us to a second article by the group, in BMC Cancer, which claimed to report data on 697 subjects over just one additional year — a highly improbable figure. 

We emailed the editor of the journal about the paper, titled “Comparison of minimally invasive Ivor Lewis esophagectomy and left transthoracic esophagectomy in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma patients: a propensity score-matched analysis.”

We received a reply from Anne Korn, a spokesperson for Springer Nature, which publishes BMC Cancer, who told us: 

We are aware of the concerns raised and are currently looking into the issue.

When concerns are raised about papers published in our journal, we look into them carefully following an established process. These issues can take time to fully unravel, so we can’t give an estimate at present. We treat correspondence with authors as confidential and are unable to comment further at this time.

The paper has yet to be cited, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

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