Former Emory division director committed misconduct, says federal watchdog

Ya Wang

A cancer researcher who was a former division director at Emory University in Atlanta “engaged in research misconduct by knowingly, intentionally, and/or recklessly falsifying data” in a federal grant application and six published papers, according to new findings from the U.S. Office of Research Integrity.

Ya Wang, who retired from Emory a year ago, “falsified protein immunoblot data by reusing and relabeling the same images to represent different experimental conditions in mammalian tissue culture models of DNA damage and repair in eighteen (18) figure panels in eleven (11) figures in one (1) grant application and six (6) published papers,” the ORI said.

Wang “neither admits nor denies” ORI’s findings of misconduct, according to the agency’s report on the case. She agreed to a four-year ban on any federal funding, and to correct or retract four papers:

Together, those four papers have been cited more than 250 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

Wang has three retractions already, by our count: Two from the Journal of Biological Chemistry and one from Nucleic Acids Research. The JBC papers are among the six mentioned in the ORI report. The NAR paper, which is not mentioned, was published during her time at Thomas Jefferson University, in Philadelphia.

From 1998 to 2018, Wang received about $4 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health.

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11 thoughts on “Former Emory division director committed misconduct, says federal watchdog”

  1. This is going to have some damage on co-authors and collaborators. When ORI conducts investigation, do they question the co-authors as well in order to determine their contributions to the work? There are big names in the list….

    1. “This is going to have some damage on co-authors and collaborators.”.

      They are responsible for checking the data.

  2. Problematic publications Walter Curran.
    https://winshipcancer.emory.edu/bios/faculty/curran-walter-j.html

    Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, FACR, is Professor Emeritus and former Chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. He served for 11 years as the Executive Director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the state of Georgia.

    Problematic publications:-
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/B10930917478824CF049BA984DD7F8
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/530F31C5FD4FE08DADA9ABC4E14CB7
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/540F270836C4576E174936503E9135
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/C87549760EFE2E10C40514510E0410
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/C61D15D2D2199A2AFEBC4A616E8348
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/AFBB0B94FDAB595CC55B1749C1D3F3
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/61FD90D5A9980A4FC629A25A0E398B

  3. J Biol Chem . 2001 Apr 20;276(16):12827-31. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M010906200. Epub 2001 Jan 25.

    A possible role of Ku in mediating sequential repair of closely opposed lesions
    M Hashimoto 1, C D Donald, S M Yannone, D J Chen, R Roy, Y W Kow
    Affiliations collapse
    Affiliation
    1Department of Radiation Oncology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30335, USA.
    PMID: 11278783

    Much more similar than expected.
    Figures 1, 2 and 3.

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/7A85E1E0A534DF50CD780C5041DAA6

  4. 2009 retraction for:

    Nucleic Acids Res . 2007;35(19):6672-80. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkm567. Epub 2007 Oct 4.
    Escherichia coli HU protein has a role in the repair of abasic sites in DNA
    Yoke W Kow 1, Barry Imhoff, Bernard Weiss, David C I Hung, Antreas A Hindoyan, Randall M Story, Steven D Goodman

    Affiliation
    1Department of Radiation Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA. ykow@emory.edu
    PMID: 17916578

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/C7FBA19C38DA7A238E1436ABD87511

    2009 retraction. https://academic.oup.com/nar/article/37/10/3474/2921129

    The authors for the paper ‘Escherichia coli HU protein has a role in the repair of abasic sites in DNA’, wish to withdraw it from publication.

    The figures used in the paper were created solely in the laboratory of Yoke W. Kow, the corresponding author, and without the knowledge of any of the other authors. It must also be noted that Antreas A. Hindoyan and Randall M. Story did not approve the manuscript prior to submission, and have requested that their names be removed from the list of authors.

    The paper has been published in Nucleic Acids Research 2007, Vol. 35, No. 19.

    The authors hereby retract this paper and discourage citations of it.

  5. “From 1998 to 2018, Wang received about $4 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health.”

    We should not forget:
    http://shared.web.emory.edu/emory/news/releases/2010/11/nasa-awards-emory-mcg-7.6-million-for-space-radiation-research.html#.YVDA9lrMLIU

    News Release: Research

    Nov. 8, 2010

    NASA awards Emory, MCG $7.6 million for space radiation research
    Contact:
    Vincent Dollard: 404-778-4580

    Researchers from Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute and the Medical College of Georgia are launching a new cancer research initiative – literally.

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded a team of investigators from both institutions $7.6 million over five years to study how a component of space radiation may induce lung cancer.

    The award establishes a NASA Specialized Center of Research (NSCOR), consisting of a team of scientists with complementary skills who work closely together to solve a set of research questions. Ya Wang, PhD, professor of radiation oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute, is director of the NSCOR at Emory.

    Interplanetary space travel could expose astronauts to conditions where they are chronically exposed to types of radiation not normally encountered on earth. One of these is high energy charged particles (HZE), which results in complex damage to DNA and a broader stress response by the affected cells and tissues.

    There is no epidemiological data for human exposure to HZE particles, although some estimates have been made studying uranium miners and Japanese atomic bomb survivors, says Wang.

    Animal experiments show that HZE particle exposure induces more tumors than other forms of radiation such as X-rays or gamma rays. Because it is a leading form of cancer, lung cancer can be expected to be prominent among increased risks from radiation even though astronauts do not smoke. However, the risk for astronauts remains unclear because the dose of HZE astronauts are expected to receive is very low, Wang says.

    The Emory-MCG researchers will probe whether the broader stress response induced by HZE particles amplifies cancer risk. Investigators will collaborate with physicists at Brookhaven National Laboratory to gather information on HZE’s effects. Individual projects include the study of how cells repair DNA damage induced by HZE particles, how HZE particles generate oxidative stress, and how they trigger regulatory changes in DNA known as methylation.

    Participating faculty include:

    Ya Wang, PhD, professor of radiation oncology, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory – director of NSCOR
    Paul Doetsch, PhD, professor of radiation oncology and biochemistry, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory – associate director of NSCOR
    William Dynan, PhD, professor, Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics at the Medical College of Georgia – associate director of NSCOR
    Paula Vertino, PhD, professor of radiation oncology, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory
    Huichen Wang, PhD, assistant professor of radiation oncology, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory
    Shi-Yong Sun, PhD, associate professor of hematology and medical oncology, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory
    Gregg Orloff, PhD, assistant professor of hematology and medical oncology, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory
    “The information generated by this project will be critical for estimating risks and establishing countermeasures for cancers associated with long term space travel. In addition, new insights into cancer resulting from all types of radiation exposure, including those found on earth, are likely to emerge from this project,” Dr. Doetsch says.

    Dr. Dynan adds, “We plan to visualize the response to HZE particle radiation in real time using nanomedicine tools and approaches. A focus on leading-edge technology was a distinguishing feature of our application.”

    Walter Curran, MD, executive director of Winship and chairman of Emory’s Department of Radiation Oncology, says “the center will place Emory and the State of Georgia squarely on the map as a place of international importance within the handful of NSCORs in the world dedicated to the study of cancer and space radiation exposure.”

    New NSCOR awards are also being made to Duke University and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center on the topic of space radiation-induced lung cancer.

    Additional information is available on the NASA Space Radiation web site.

  6. 09 March 2022 retraction for:

    Cell Death Dis. 2014 Jan 23;5(1):e1024.
    doi: 10.1038/cddis.2013.563.

    OCT4 as a target of miR-34a stimulates p63 but inhibits p53 to promote human cell transformation

    W L Ng 1 , G Chen 1 , M Wang 2 , H Wang 1 , M Story 3 , J W Shay 4 , X Zhang 1 , J Wang 1 , A R M R Amin 5 , B Hu 6 , F A Cucinotta 7 , Y Wang 1
    Affiliations
    Affiliations

    1
    Department of Radiation Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.
    2
    Division of Space Life Sciences, Universities Space Research Association, Houston, TX, USA.
    3
    Department of Radiation Oncology, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA.
    4
    Department of Cell Biology, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA.
    5
    Department of Hematology and Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.
    6
    1] Department of Radiation Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA [2] Department of Medical Molecular Biology, Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, Beijing, China.
    7
    Department of Health Physics and Diagnostic Sciences, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV, USA.

    PMID: 24457968 PMCID: PMC4040665 DOI: 10.1038/cddis.2013.563

    09 March 2022 retraction.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41419-022-04665-4

    Retraction to: Cell Death Dis https://doi.org/10.1038/cddis.2013.563 published online 23 January 2014

    The Editors-in-Chief have retracted this article because concerns have been raised about the reliability of the presented data. An investigation by the US Office of Research Integrity has concluded that western blot images for total protein expression in human cell lines subject to gene depletion and/or overexpression were produced by reusing immunoblot bands and relabeling them to represent different experiments in seven figure panels in five papers and one grant application. In this article, this affects Fig. 5B, representing p53 and p63 levels in human lung epithelial cells with or without gene depletion.

    Authors M. Story and J. W. Shay agree to this retraction. Authors Y. Wang and W. L. Ng do not agree to this retraction. Authors A. R. M. R. Amin and F. A. Cucinotta have not responded to any correspondence from the editor or publisher about this retraction. The Publisher has not been able to obtain a current email address for authors G. Chen, M. Wang, H. Wang, X. Zhang, J. Wang and B. Hu.

    Findings of misconduct.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8452485/

  7. 31 March retraction for:

    Nucleic Acids Res. 2009 Dec; 37(22): 7447–7454.
    Published online 2009 Oct 6. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkp768

    PMCID: PMC2794162
    PMID: 19808933
    MEPE/OF45 protects cells from DNA damage induced killing via stabilizing CHK1
    Shuang Liu,1,2 Hongyan Wang,2 Xiang Wang,3 Lin Lu,3 Ning Gao,1 Peter S. N. Rowe,4 Baocheng Hu,1,2,* and Ya Wang2,*
    Author information
    1Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, Beijing 100850, China, 2Department of Radiation Oncology, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA, 3Department of Radiation Oncology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107 and 4Department of Internal Medicine, Kidney Institute & Division of Nephrology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS 66160, USA
    *To whom correspondence should be addressed. Tel: +1 404 778 1832; Fax: +1 404 778 1750; Email: yawang@radonc.emory.org
    Correspondence may also be addressed to Baocheng Hu. Tel/Fax: +8610 6824 8045; Email: baochenghu@yahoo.com.cn

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/7499ABC79483C2B03875C70103743A

    31 March 2022 retraction.
    https://academic.oup.com/nar/advance-article/doi/10.1093/nar/gkac211/6555424

    In September 2021, a reader raised concerns about PCNA and CHK-1 Western-blot bands in Figures 1A and 4A, respectively. While the institution found insufficient evidence to move forward with an investigation in 2020, a detailed examination of the figures by the editors found evidence of inappropriate image manipulation. A consultant subsequently hired by the institution corroborated the findings. There may be additional issues beyond the ones reported here.

    Collectively, these issues render the findings unreliable, and the conclusions may no longer be valid. The authors are also unable to provide the original data for inspection. The Editors are, therefore, retracting the article.

  8. 18 June 2022 Expression of Concern for:

    Nucleic Acids Res. 2015 Feb 18; 43(3): 1626–1636.
    Published online 2015 Jan 10. doi: 10.1093/nar/gku1368
    PMCID: PMC4330351
    PMID: 25578966
    DICER-dependent biogenesis of let-7 miRNAs affects human cell response to DNA damage via targeting p21/p27
    Bailong Liu,1,2 Min Liu,1,2 Jian Wang,2 Xiangming Zhang,2 Xiang Wang,2 Ping Wang,2 Hongyan Wang,2 Wei Li,3,* and Ya Wang2,*
    Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer
    1Department of Radiation Oncology, The First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun 130021, China
    2Department of Radiation Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA
    3Department of Cancer Center, The First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun 130021, China
    *To whom correspondence should be addressed. Tel: +404 778 1832; Fax: +404 778 1750; Email: ywang94@emory.edu
    Correspondence may also be addressed to Wei Li. Tel: +86 137 5666 1267; Fax: +86 431 8878 6102; Email: jdyylw@163.com

    18 June 2022 Expression of Concern. https://academic.oup.com/nar/advance-article/doi/10.1093/nar/gkac553/6611041

    The Editors were first alerted in early 2020 that the bands in Figure 4C show unusual levels of similarity. The journal and institution investigated the matter at the time and did not find conclusive evidence to support the allegations.

    When similar allegations were brought to the Editors’ attention again in late 2021, the journal re-opened the investigation. With newer techniques, the journal also identified potential concerns with Figure 2D. While the corresponding author works with the institution where the research was conducted to retrieve the original data, the Editors advise readers to examine the details of this study with particular care.

    Julian E. Sale, Barry L. Stoddard

    Senior Executive Editors

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