Former Weill Cornell cancer researcher up to 20 retractions; investigation’s findings are with Feds

Andrew Dannenberg

The journal Cancer Prevention Research has retracted nine papers at once from a group of cancer researchers led by Andrew Dannenberg, formerly of Weill Cornell Medicine. 

The bundle of retractions brings Dannenberg’s total to 20, according to our database, nearly doubling the 11 he had previously. Kotha Subbaramaiah, also formerly of Weill Cornell Medicine, is a coauthor on all of the newly retracted papers, and two of the notices point the finger at figures that he prepared. 

Dannenberg and Subbaramaiah retired from Cornell in the space of three months in late 2020 and early 2021, Retraction Watch has learned, and the university has forwarded a report of their investigation into the matter to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity.

The newly retracted papers have been cited a total of nearly 500 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, with more than half of those cites to the 2011 paper “Obesity Is Associated with Inflammation and Elevated Aromatase Expression in the Mouse Mammary Gland.”

That paper has one of the more informative retraction notices

This article (1) has been retracted at the request of the authors. Following a review by Weill Cornell Medicine, evidence of data falsification or fabrication was found in two figures prepared by Dr. Kotha Subbaramaiah. Suspicious duplications of band images were found in Fig. 3A. In Fig. 10C, it appears that the bottom row of bands has been cut and moved to align directly with the annotations on the top of the page. A copy of this Retraction Notice was sent to the last known e-mail addresses for the 13 authors. Eleven authors (Kotha Subbaramaiah, Louise R. Howe, Priya Bhardwaj, Rhonda K. Yantiss, Xi Kathy Zhou, Victoria A. Blaho, Timothy Hla, Peiying Yang, Levy Kopelovich, Clifford A. Hudis, and Andrew J. Dannenberg) agreed to the retraction; two authors (Baoheng Du and Claudia Gravaghi) did not respond. The authors apologize to the scientific community and deeply regret any inconveniences or challenges resulting from the publication and subsequent retraction of this article.

One other notice, for a paper published in 2013, also mentions a review by Weill Cornell Medicine and evidence of data falsification or fabrication in a figure Subbaramaiah prepared. The rest of the notices are similar, but just say “There was evidence of data falsification or fabrication found” in various figures, without attributing them to Subbaramaiah. 

A few other authors, including CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Clifford Hudis, overlap between the papers, but only Subbaramaiah and Dannenberg are listed on all nine. 

All of the articles have comments on PubPeer pointing out similarities between images. Some of the comments on the team’s work date back to 2018, the year that the pseudonymous critic Claire Francis first alerted journals and Weill Cornell to the potential issues. 

Subbaramaiah – who has now had 18 papers retracted, according to our count – resigned from Weill Cornell on December 31, 2020, according to a Weill Cornell Medicine spokesperson. The review mentioned in the retraction notices has concluded, she said, and also included six of the other seven papers just retracted. When we asked the outcome of the investigation, she said: 

The committee’s findings were submitted to the federal Office of Research Integrity and we are unable to discuss the report as it remains an open matter.

Dannenberg retired last year from Weill Cornell. His lawyer, Elizabeth McAvoy at the Boston firm Hinkley Allen, sent us this statement:

Dr. Dannenberg did not generate the problematic data nor prepare the figures necessitating retraction of any of the nine articles you reference; those data were prepared by another investigator, who is referenced in two of the Retraction Notices. At the time of publication, Dr. Dannenberg believed those data were valid and reliable and only came to learn more recently of concerns pertaining to those data. 

Dannenberg’s retraction count shot up in 2019, when the Journal of Biological Chemistry retracted nine papers in bulk. He also had a paper retracted from the Lancet in 2006, and another from Cancer Discovery in 2021. 

Hudis was a coauthor on five of the newly retracted papers, and one of those retracted in 2019. We asked if he knew what happened to cause the retractions:

All that I have been told is that one of our co-authors could not provide evidence to support various figures he had generated. I agree with the retractions.

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3 thoughts on “Former Weill Cornell cancer researcher up to 20 retractions; investigation’s findings are with Feds”

  1. ” Some of the comments on the team’s work date back to 2018, the year that the pseudonymous critic Claire Francis first alerted journals and Weill Cornell to the potential issues. ”

    4 years to retraction is quite a long time.

    “Dannenberg’s retraction count shot up in 2019, when the Journal of Biological Chemistry retracted nine papers in bulk.”

    Journal of Biological Chemistry retracted nine papers in 2019, why has the journal Cancer Prevention Research delayed until 2022?

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