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Further studies conducted by cancer researchers at Columbia University have been retracted

Further studies conducted by cancer researchers at Columbia University have been retracted

Scientists at a prominent cancer lab at Columbia University have retracted four studies, and a scathing memorandum has been added to a fifth accusing them of “abusing the scientific publishing system,” the latest fallout from recent research misconduct allegations against several prominent cancer scientists. .

Scientific investigations in Britain last year Detect inconsistencies in data published by the Columbia Laboratory, including reuse of photographs and other images across various papers. The New York Times reported last month that a medical journal in 2022 quietly deleted a study conducted by researchers on stomach cancer after an internal investigation conducted by the journal found ethical violations.

Although that study was removed, the researchers — Dr. Sam Yoon, head of the research team Department of Cancer Surgery At Columbia University Medical Center, Zhanghuan Yun, a junior biologist there, continued to publish studies containing questionable data. Since 2008, the two scientists have collaborated with other researchers on 26 articles written by investigator Sholto David. publicly Putting a mark Because of distortion of experimental results

This was one of those articles It declined last month After The Times asked the publishers about these allegations. In recent weeks, medical journals to retreat three additional Studies that described new strategies for treating stomach and head and neck cancers. Other laboratories have cited the articles in approximately 90 research papers.

A major scientific publisher also appended an explicit note to the article that it had originally removed without explanation in 2022. “The reuse (and partial distortion) of data without proper attribution represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system.” He said.

However, these procedures only addressed a small portion of the suspect lab papers. Experts said the incident illustrates not only the extent of unreliable research conducted by the best laboratories, but also the tendency of scientific publishers to respond slowly, if at all, to major problems once they are discovered. As a result, other laboratories continue to rely on questionable work as federal research dollars pour into studies, allowing errors to accumulate in the scientific record.

“For every paper that is retracted, there are probably 10 that should be retracted,” said Dr. Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, which maintains a database of more than 47,000 retracted studies. “Journals are not particularly interested in correcting the record.”

Columbia Medical Center declined to comment on the allegations facing Dr. Yoon's laboratory. She said the two scientists remained in Colombia and that the hospital was “fully committed to upholding the highest standards of ethics and strictly maintaining the integrity of our research.”

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Laboratory web page It has recently been taken offline. Colombia declined to say why. Neither Dr. Yun nor Zhanghuan Yun could be reached for comment. (They are not related).

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where the scientists worked when much of the research was done, is investigating their work.

The decline of Colombian scientists comes amid growing interest in questionable data supporting some medical research. Since late February, medical journals have done just that Seven retreated Leaves By scientists at Harvard's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This came after investigations into data problems Posted by Dr. Davidan independent molecular biologist who looks for irregularities in published images of cells, tumors and mice, sometimes with the help of artificial intelligence programs.

The wave of misconduct allegations has drawn attention to the pressures on academic scientists — even those, like Dr. Yoon, who also work as doctors — to produce large amounts of research.

Robust visuals of experimental results are often needed in these studies. Publishing them helps scientists win prestigious academic appointments and attract federal research grants that can benefit them and their universities.

Dr. Yoon, a robotic surgeon famous for his treatment of stomach cancers, helped bring them in Nearly $5 million in federal research funds during his career.

His lab's most recent retractions included articles from 2020 and 2021 written by Dr. David He said the incoming one Blatant violations. Their results appear to include identical images of mice with the tumor, even though those mice were supposed to have undergone different experiments involving separate treatments and types of cancer cells.

The medical journal Cell Death & Disease retracted two of the most recent studies, and Oncogene retracted the third. The studies also reused other images, such as identical images of clusters of cancer cells, the journals found.

The studies that Dr. David pointed out as having image problems were largely supervised by the more senior Dr. Yoon. Zhanghuan Yun, an associate research scientist who worked alongside Dr. Yun for a decade, was often the first author, which generally refers to the scientist who ran the bulk of the trials.

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Kun Huang, a scientist in China who supervised one Recently retracted studies, A 2020 paper that did not include the top-ranking Dr. Yun attributed the problematic sections of that study to Changhuan Yun. Dr. Huang who made Those comments This month, PubPeer, a site where scientists post about studies, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

But the top-ranking Dr. Yun had long been aware of problems with the research he published alongside Changhuan Yun: The two scientists were notified of the removal of their study on stomach cancer in January 2022 that was found to have violated ethical guidelines.

Research misconduct is often attributed to junior researchers conducting experiments. Other scientists, however, assign greater responsibility to senior researchers who run laboratories and supervise studies, even as they juggle their jobs as clinicians or administrators.

“The research world is beginning to realize that with great power comes great responsibility, and in fact, you are responsible not only for what one of your direct reports did in the lab, but also for the environment you create,” Dr. Oransky said.

In their most recent public retraction notices, medical journals said they had lost confidence in the results and conclusions. Imaging experts said some of the irregularities identified by Dr. David bore signs of intentional manipulation, such as mirrored or rotated images, while others may be sloppy copy-and-paste errors.

the A removal that was little noticed by the Journal of Gastric Cancer Study In January 2022, he highlighted the policy of some scientific publishers of not disclosing the reasons for retracting papers as long as they have not yet officially appeared in print. That study only appeared online.

Roland Herzog, editor of the journal Molecular Therapy, said the editors had formulated an explanation they intended to publish at the time the article was removed. But Elsevier, the magazine's parent publisher, told them that such a memo was unnecessary, he said.

Only after the Times article last month did Elsevier agree to publicly explain the article's deletion with a stern note. in Editorial this weekIn the future, Molecular Therapy editors said they would explain the removal of any articles published online only.

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But Elsevier said in a statement that it does not consider articles published online “to be the last registered articles published.” As a result, company policy continues to advise that these articles be removed without explanation when they are found to be problematic. The company said it allowed editors to provide additional information when needed.

Elsevier, which publishes and produces nearly 3,000 journals Billions of dollars in annual revenuehe have It has long been criticized for its ambiguous takedowns From articles online.

Articles written by Columbia University scientists, which have not yet been processed, have been distributed largely by three major publishers: Elsevier, Springer Nature, and the American Association for Cancer Research. Dr. David alerted several journals to the data discrepancies in October.

Each publisher said it was investigating these concerns. Investigations take time because they may involve consulting experts, waiting for authors' responses, and analyzing preliminary data, Springer Nature said.

Dr. David also raised concerns about independently published studies by scientists who collaborated with Columbia University researchers on some of their recently retracted research papers. For example, Sandra Reum, an associate professor of surgical sciences at Columbia University, published an article in 2003 while at Harvard that Dr. It said it contains a duplicate image. As of 2021, she was married to the top-ranking Dr. Yoon, according to a mortgage document from that year.

Medical journal attached to A Official notice To last week's article saying “appropriate editorial action will be taken” once data concerns are resolved. Dr. Reaume said in a statement that she was working with the paper's senior author to “correct the error.”

Colombia sought to promote the importance of sound research practices. Hours after the Times article appeared last month, Dr. Michael Shilansky, the School of Medicine's vice dean for research, sent an email to faculty with the subject “Research Fraud Accusations — How to Protect Yourself.” She warned that such allegations, whatever their basis, could negatively affect the university.

“In the months it may take to investigate an allegation, funding can be suspended, and donors may feel their trust has been betrayed,” Dr. Shilansky wrote.