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Nature group journal retracts two papers after cancer researcher was found to have falsified data

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 15 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5218
  1. Nayanah Siva
  1. 1London

Sheng Wang, from Boston University School of Medicine Cancer Research Center, falsified data in two papers published in journals in 2009, said the US Office of Research Integrity last week.

Both papers, one published in Molecular Endocrinology and one in the Nature Publishing Group’s Oncogene, have been retracted.

The Office of Research Integrity’s investigation found that Dr Wang had falsified data that were represented in six of seven figures in one publication and six of eight figures in the second publication. The experiments that Dr Wang is said to have fabricated included reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and chromatin immunoprecipitation. His research involved looking at the role of the protein HIC1 on tumour cell suppression in breast cancer.

Dr Wang entered into a voluntary exclusion agreement and agreed for the papers to be retracted. A summary notice issued by the Office of Research Integrity on 5 August said, “Respondent and the US Public Health Service want to conclude this matter without further expenditure of time or other resources.

“Respondent accepts ORI’s findings of research misconduct as set forth above but neither admits nor denies committing research misconduct. The agreement does not constitute an admission of liability on respondent’s part. Respondent agrees not to appeal the jurisdiction of ORI or request a US Department of Health and Human Services administrative hearing to review the findings as set forth in the Agreement.”

John Dahlberg, director of the division of investigative oversight at the Office of Research Integrity, said that the allegations were made by officials at Boston University. He said, “An inquiry was conducted by Boston University, and prior to the initiation of an investigation Dr Wang’s attorney, Boston University, and ORI concluded a voluntary settlement agreement.”

Boston University said it was not able to discuss the topic in detail. In a statement a university spokesperson said that Dr Wang’s employment with the university ended on 15 July.

Dr Wang was listed as the corresponding author on both papers, but the Office of Research Integrity is not concerned about the other researchers listed on the paper being involved in the misconduct. “Boston University and ORI are satisfied that no other coauthors were responsible for the misconduct,” said Mr Dahlberg.

In the paper published in Molecular Endocrinology Dr Wang makes a special acknowledgement to Srikumar Chellappan “for his continuous support.” Dr Wang worked in Dr Chellappan’s laboratory at the H Lee Moffitt Cancer Centre and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, as a postdoctoral fellow from 1994 to 2000. The Boston Globe reported that Dr Chellappan did not recall anything suspicious during his time of working with Dr Wang ( In the newspaper article he said, “I am extremely saddened and disappointed to hear this news, and I hope he will learn from this experience.” In response to questions from the BMJ Dr Chellappan said that he had nothing further to add to what was quoted in the Boston Globe.

The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health, both of which declined to comment and advised the BMJ to contact the Office of Research Integrity.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5218

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