That happened this week, when we saw a retraction notice for a 2015 paper on gastric cancer in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, which only says the authors “made big mistakes” and contains two fairly significant typos.
Sometime in the middle of 2015, Jennifer Byrne, professor of molecular oncology at the University of Sydney, began her journey from cancer researcher to a scientific literature sleuth, seeking out potentially problematic papers.
The first step was when she noticed several papers that contained a mistake in a DNA construct which, she believed, meant the papers were not testing the gene in question, associated with multiple cancer types. She started a writing campaign to the journal editors and researchers, with mixed success. But less than two years later, two of the five papers she flagged have already been retracted.
The authors of a paper about the benefits of an antioxidant found in blueberries known as pterostilbene have retracted it after their subsequent research suggested the antioxidant might actually be harmful.
The paper presented evidence that the antioxidant might help rats after heart attack, in part by inhibiting cell death (apoptosis). But according to the retraction note, more work
found that pterostilbene might induce apoptosis in the heart and can be harmful, and we are now focusing on the phenomenon.