New in PNAS: Potti retraction number seven, and a Potti correction

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has published the seventh retraction for former Duke researcher Anil Potti, who now faces a lawsuit in the midst of an ongoing investigation into his work:

Retraction for “A genomic approach to colon cancer risk stratification yields biologic insights into therapeutic opportunities,” by Katherine S. Garman, Chaitanya R. Acharya, Elena Edelman, Marian Grade, Jochen Gaedcke, Shivani Sud, William Barry, Anna Mae Diehl, Dawn Provenzale, Geoffrey S. Ginsburg, B. Michael Ghadimi, Thomas Ried, Joseph R. Nevins, Sayan Mukherjee, David Hsu, and Anil Potti, which appeared in issue 49, December 9, 2008, of Proc Natl Acad Sci USA (105:19432–19437; first published December 2, 2008; 10.1073/pnas.0806674105).

The authors wish to note the following: “We wish to retract this article because we have been unable to reproduce certain key experiments described in the paper regarding validation and use of the colon cancer prognostic signature. This includes the validation performed with dataset E-MEXP-1224, as reported in Fig. 2A, as well as the generation of prognostic scores for colon cancer cell lines, as reported in Fig. 4. Because these results are fundamental to the conclusions of the paper, the authors formally retract the paper. We deeply regret the impact of this action on the work of other investigators.”

The 2008 paper, which has been cited 27 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, was already the subject of a minor 2009 correction: Continue reading New in PNAS: Potti retraction number seven, and a Potti correction

The $240,000 retraction: Scientist responsible gives back company shares

In December, we reported on how a Swedish company that was about to go public dealt with a retraction of a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that formed some of the basis of their work. The company, Wnt Research, was scheduled to go public on November 26, 2010, but after the retraction appeared on November 11, they postponed the initial public offering (IPO), and let every investor that had expressed an interest know about the retraction.

We thought the company’s moves demonstrated a remarkable transparency. Now we learn that the scientist responsible for the errors that led to the retraction has given back the shares which he or she was given when the company was founded. The company announced the news in a press release last week: Continue reading The $240,000 retraction: Scientist responsible gives back company shares

On second thought: PNAS retracts two papers after results fail replication

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) ran two retractions this week.

One of those papers was “Properdin homeostasis requires turnover of the alternative complement pathway,” which first appeared online in October of last year. The researchers were looking at the interaction between complement — a sort of primitive immune system — and a protein called properdin.

From the notice: Continue reading On second thought: PNAS retracts two papers after results fail replication

Wnt Research: How a retraction delayed an IPO, shrunk investment — but should build public trust

It’s easy to focus on the downstream scientific effects of retractions. But sometimes they have financial implications, too.

Two weeks ago, we covered the retraction of a PNAS paper on a potential breast cancer treatment, one that would make tumors that didn’t respond to tamoxifen respond to the drug. We learned earlier this week from a Retraction Watch commenter that Wnt Research, a company based on the breast cancer finding and other work, was about to go public.

In fact, their initial public offering (IPO) happened today, and you can follow the price of their stock — listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange as WNT — here. But what we learned when we looked into the IPO was that it was originally scheduled for late November, and was delayed because of the retraction.

Tommy Andersson, one of the researchers on the now-retracted paper and Wnt Research’s chief scientific officer, told Retraction Watch that the company had initially planned on going public on November 26. They had written a memorandum describing the company’s work to date, and its plans, and the public was given a chance to invest before shares hit the Stockholm exchange. That memorandum included a mention of the PNAS paper, as follows (translated from Swedish): Continue reading Wnt Research: How a retraction delayed an IPO, shrunk investment — but should build public trust

PNAS paper on potential breast cancer treatment retracted

The authors of a 2009 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) have retracted the paper, which found a particular molecule could make breast tumors respond to a drug to which they’re not normally susceptible.

The paper — which has been cited five times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge — was the subject of a fair amount of press coverage, although the molecule is not yet in clinical trials. In a Reuters story, lead author Caroline Ford said of the alleged tamoxifen-sensitizing compound, Foxy-5:

“It flips the switch basically,” Ford said in a telephone interview. “It makes breast cancer cells respond to tamoxifen in women who cannot be treated with the drug,” she added. “If you don’t have that molecule you can’t get tamoxifen because there is no target.”

According to the retraction notice, signed by all three of the study’s authors: Continue reading PNAS paper on potential breast cancer treatment retracted

Nobelist Linda Buck retracts two studies on olfactory networks — and the news is embargoed

Well, it’s happened: The Embargo Watch and Retraction Watch worlds have collided. I had initially figured on two posts here, but it soon became clear that how journals were handling these retractions, using embargoes, was central to both. So this is being cross-posted on both blogs.

Linda Buck, who shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, has retracted two papers published in 2005 and 2006. Both retractions — one in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and one in Science — appear online today.

The papers describe how nerves that carry information about scents connect from the nose to the olfactory bulb, where they are processed. They were published after the 2004 Nobel, which was for discoveries “of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system.”

The retractions come two and a half years after Buck retracted a 2001 Nature paper co-authored with Zhihua Zou, a post-doc in her then-Harvard lab. She’s been at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center since 2002, and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. In 2008, Nature’s news section reported:

Harvard Medical School has formed an ad hoc committee to review the retraction, and Buck has asked the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to review two later publications on which Zou was the lead author. “It’s disappointing of course,” says Buck. “The important thing is to correct the literature.”

The PNAS and Science retractions are of those two later publications. The PNAS study was cited 61 times, and the Science study was cited 73 times, according to the Thomson Scientific Web of Knowledge.

The Science retraction reads: Continue reading Nobelist Linda Buck retracts two studies on olfactory networks — and the news is embargoed

Update on gene therapy researcher Savio Woo retractions: Two post-docs dismissed for fraud

More on the case of Savio Woo, the New York gene therapy researcher who, as Retraction Watch reported  this week, had several papers pulled by noted journals.

Two of Woo’s post-doctoral fellows at Mount Sinai School of Medicine were dismissed for “research misconduct,” said Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the institution. According to Michaels:

When Dr. Savio L C Woo came to suspect that two post-doctoral fellows in his laboratory may have engaged in research misconduct he notified the Mount Sinai Research Integrity Office. Mount Sinai immediately initiated institutional reviews that resulted in both post-doctoral fellows being dismissed for research misconduct. At no time were there allegations that Dr. Woo had engaged in research misconduct. As part of its review, the investigation committee looked into this possibility and confirmed that no research misconduct could be attributed to Dr. Woo, who voluntarily retracted the papers regarding the research in question. Mount Sinai reported the results of its investigations to the appropriate government agencies and continues to cooperate with them as part of its commitment to adhere to the highest standards for research integrity.

We have plenty of other questions for Mount Sinai about the details of the investigation—including when the post-docs were let go, which Michaels declined to answer—and will update when we learn more.

Work from noted gene therapy researcher Savio Woo under scrutiny with slew of retractions

Research from the lab of Savio Woo, a leading U.S. gene therapy scientist, has come into question with the retraction by major journals of at least four of his articles.

The papers, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and Human Gene Therapy, involve findings published between 2005 and 2009, address various aspect of gene therapy. Two of the articles boasted of potential breakthroughs, and even a possible cure, for diseases with extremely high rates of mortality.

The study in JNCI, for example, reported the finding of a genetically modified bacterium that showed promise for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, a particularly lethal malignancy, and other tumor types. Another, published in 2005 in PNAS, claimed to have discovered a possible cure for phenylketonuria, or PKU, in mice—a finding that was cited more than 30 times and trumpeted in the media.

However, in a retraction notice issued this month, Woo wrote that: Continue reading Work from noted gene therapy researcher Savio Woo under scrutiny with slew of retractions

2005 PNAS Arabidopsis cold sensitivity gene paper retracted

There’s a retraction this week from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of a paper that first appeared online on July 1, 2005 (and which is still available, but notes under “this article” that “a retraction has been published”). The paper reports on a study that allegedly found a gene that made Arabidopsis plants — a favorite model of molecular biologists — “extremely sensitive to freezing temperatures, completely unable to acclimate to the cold,” and very sensitive to salt.

In other words, the Arabidopsis version of our relatives in Florida.

From the retraction:
Continue reading 2005 PNAS Arabidopsis cold sensitivity gene paper retracted