Journals retract papers following publication of university investigation by Retraction Watch

Hari Koul

Two journals have retracted three papers by a former researcher at the University of Colorado Denver six weeks after Retraction Watch first revealed that the university had recommended correcting the research record in 2016. Another journal has issued an expression of concern for a paper flagged in the investigation.

Despite a recommendation that nine different papers be corrected and retracted, journals had, by last month, retracted just two papers by the researcher, Hari Koul, now at Louisiana State University, and corrected one. Koul, as we reported, had apparently failed to inform multiple journal editors of the need for corrections and retractions.

At the time, Jennifer Regala, the executive editor of the Journal of Urology, which just retracted two of Koul’s papers, told Retraction Watch: “We were not aware of these allegations, so of course these are of grave concern to us.” She said that the American Urological Association, which publishes the journal, planned to conduct its own investigation. 

And a spokesperson for Elsevier, which publishes Cancer Letters, another journal that has now retracted a paper by Koul and colleagues, said at the time that “the journal is not aware of any investigation but is contacting the university to request the relevant details.”

The Journal of Urology has now retracted “Potentiation of Mitomycin C Tumoricidal Activity for Transitional Cell Carcinoma by Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors In Vitro” and “Primary Culture and Characterization of Human Renal Inner Medullary Collecting Duct Epithelial Cells.”

The retraction notices read, respectively:

It has come to the attention of the editors that figures 2 and 6, A were potentially manipulated. Therefore, the editors of this article wish to retract this article.

And:

It has come to the attention of the editors that figures 4, C and 5, B were potentially manipulated. Therefore, the editors of this article wish to retract this article.

And Cancer Letters has retracted “Differential effects of valproic acid on growth, proliferation and metastasis in HTB5 and HTB9 bladder cancer cell lines.” Its notice reads:

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (https://www.elsevier.com/about/our-business/policies/article-withdrawal).

This article is being retracted following correspondence from an Investigation Committee at the University of Colorado Denver.

An internal investigation into this manuscript by the University of Colorado Denver, found evidence that there was image manipulation and that these actions warrant retraction to correct the scientific record.

Bands on blot obscured or removed, apparent when the images are enhanced (Fig 4A p21 band “C” at 24hr, Fig 4B p21 band “C” at 24hr, and Fig 4B Cyclin A band “10” at 48 hr).

Molecular Cancer Research did not respond to requests for comment from Retraction Watch during the months that we researched our earlier story. However, on, June 3, the day that story appeared online, the journal issued an editor’s note for “Focal Adhesion Kinase Controls Aggressive Phenotype of Androgen-Independent Prostate Cancer.” That note, which is the equivalent of an expression of concern, reads:

The Molecular Cancer Research editors are publishing this note to alert readers to concerns about this article (1). An institutional investigation suggested that the images used in this article above the first and fourth bars in Fig. 5F to represent DU 145 cells appear to have been reused in a Molecular Cancer article (2) above the fifth and sixth bars, respectively, in Fig. 4D to represent PC-3 cells. Original research records related to these concerns were not available during the institutional investigation; therefore, the institution was not able to determine the relation of the images to the experiments described in this article (1). Moreover, an internal journal investigation could not dismiss the possibility that the images in question were reused as described.

Because a satisfactorily corrected figure could not be provided, the editors are publishing this note to alert readers to these concerns.

As we noted in our June post, the six then-unflagged papers have been cited more than 100 times since the completion of the University of Colorado investigation, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. The two remaining papers named by the report but not yet corrected or retracted appeared in Molecular Cancer and Cancer Research.

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