Weill Cornell cancer researchers committed research misconduct, feds say

Andrew Dannenberg

Two cancer researchers who formerly worked at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City published 12 papers with fake data that amounts to research misconduct, according to findings from the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI). 

ORI found that Andrew Dannenberg “engaged in research misconduct by recklessly reporting falsified and/or fabricated data” in the papers, and Kotha Subbaramaiah “reused Western blot images from the same source and falsely relabeled them to represent different proteins and/or experimental results.” 

The published findings for both scientists include the same extensive list of duplicated images in a dozen papers, all retracted. 

Dannenberg’s retraction count reached 20 last June, when Cancer Prevention Research retracted nine of his articles at once. Subbaramaiah was a coauthor on all of the papers, and has 18 retractions by our count

As we reported last year, Dannenberg and Subbaramaiah retired from Weill Cornell in late 2020 and early 2021. Dannenberg had received approximately $8 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health since 1995; Subbaramaiah received more than $1 million between 2005 and 2009. 

For our story on the retractions, Dannenberg’s lawyer, Elizabeth McEvoy 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. 

McAvoy has not yet responded to our request for comment on ORI’s findings. [See update at the end of this post.] However, the latest action suggests investigators were not satisfied Dannenberg was an innocent bystander in his colleague’s deception. 

Subbaramaiah declined to comment. 

ORI’s findings state that Dannenberg agreed to have his research supervised for seven years – an unusually long term. Subbaramaiah agreed to “exclude himself” from federal contracting or receiving other government funding for the same length of time.

Update, 9/7/23, 2000 UTC: McEvoy sent us this statement:

The fraudulent data in the retracted papers were generated and prepared by a faculty member in Dr. Dannenberg’s former laboratory, not by Dr. Dannenberg.  Dr. Dannenberg believed the data produced in each of the implicated papers/grants were accurate and reliable when they were submitted.  Dr. Dannenberg would never have published the data had he suspected or known that the data were manipulated or fabricated.  Although Dr. Dannenberg believes he was careful and thorough in supervising data generation in his lab, he has reached a settlement with the Office of Research Integrity to allow him to continue pursuing his scientific endeavors in PHS-funded science and avoid the time and burden of further litigation. 

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6 thoughts on “Weill Cornell cancer researchers committed research misconduct, feds say”

  1. Thanks, but your article fails to say if the papers conclusions are wrong ,or if the figures they misused were not relevant to the papers

    There is misdeed, but what about the papers conclusions.

    Obviously Mcvoy did not do a reasonable job of directing his team! A serious misconduct.

    1. If there is data that is falsified, you cannot trust anything in the paper. These are often the things that are “obvious”, there’s plenty of less obvious results that can be falsified without anyone ever knowing.

      And why would anyone even falsify figures if they are not relevant?

    2. George, sifting through fabricated data trying to identify which parts of it are true is a pointless exercise.
      The paper’s conclusions rely on the data presented… No one is including irrelevant data in a manuscript.

  2. Dr. Dannenberg left the institution either in 2020 or 2021.
    From his lawyer Elizabeth McEvoy – Although Dr. Dannenberg believes he was careful and thorough in supervising data generation in his lab, he has reached a settlement with the Office of Research Integrity to allow him to continue pursuing his scientific endeavors in PHS-funded science and avoid the time and burden of further litigation.
    Where is he going to start his supervision?

  3. I’m troubled by the last part of the lawyer’s statement, that Dr. Dan “reached a settlement with ORI” to “avoid further litigation”.
    The word FURTHER implies there already was litigation in process. It would be reasonable to assume that Dr. Dan sued either his employer or the feds. Is there any record of such?
    According to your 2020 story, his attorney was Bruce Singal in Boston. Now it’s Elizabeth McEvoy at a different Boston firm. Wonder why he switched? Maybe the original attempt to sue failed?

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