Two news stories hit the press this morning that struck me interesting. Mostly due to the extreme opposites.
The first; a previously employed Pfizer senior scientist has agreed to retract 6 papers. Six, high impact, each with different first authors on slightly different subject matter, primary research papers. OUCH! The cause of the retraction appears to have been ‘suspicions of data manipulation’. In this case, the images on each of the six papers were duplicates of one another but being applied to and made to believe were found independently.
Here’s the citations of the papers:
Nassirpour et al., miR-221 Promotes Tumorigenesis in Human Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cells, 8(4) PLOS ONE, (2013);
Baxi et al., Targeting 3-Phosphoinoside-Dependent Kinase-1 to Inhibit Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I Induced AKT and p70 S6 Kinase Activation in Breast Cancer Cells, 7(10) PLOS ONE (2012);
Mehta et al., A novel class of specific Hsp90 small molecule inhibitors demonstrate in vitro and in vivo anti-tumor activity in human melanoma cells, 300 Cancer Letters 30 (2011);
Mehta et al., Effective Targeting of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cells by PF-4942847, a Novel Oral Inhibitor of Hsp 90, 17(6) Clinical Cancer Research 5432, 2011; and
Nassirpour et al., Nek6 Mediates Human Cancer Cell Transformation And Is A Potential Cancer Therapeutic Target, 8(5) Molecular Cancer Research 717 (2010).
I actually took 20 minutes to see if I could see the duplications, which are within blots, not between blots or between papers. I could not see the suspicions without direction from PubPeer. This makes me wonder, how and who are these people that review papers for PubPeer? From their website, it appears to be crowdsourced and anonymous. Why didn’t the reviewers assigned to EACH of these papers see it prior to publication?
There are several voices in this argument and I won’t get into it, suffice to say that Replicating is not Reproducing. True science, in silico or not, requires reproduction of results prior to stating conclusions as facts. Different methods, multiple observations carried out under various diverse conditions. And all under TRANSPARENCY.
Which leads me into the second interesting article of news this morning in TheGuardian: “Evidence Suggests Woman's Ovaries Can Grow New Eggs.” WHAT??!!?!?!
This title screams media abuse. However, ALL authors are quoted as being cautious and humbled by the findings, Senior Author, Evelyn Telfer is quoted saying,
“There’s so much we don’t know about the ovary,”
“We have to be very cautious about jumping to clinical applications.”
David Albertini, is quoted,
“Honestly, I think there are too many other ways to explain the results, [only].. one of which is that new eggs were made,”
And Nick Macklon, said that the work
“raises more questions than it answers”.
If there’s one thing I can gleam positively from these bigger than life research stories is that they are under the most scrutiny. I’m sure PubPeer will be on it, looking at all the histology panels with magnifying glasses.
And if there’s some fact to this dogma shattering finding, HAIL.
Science, keeping us all on our toes.