Today’s second “bad behavior” story comes courtesy of Retraction Watch and Leonard Schneider’s For Better Science. Schneider has been tracking some problems with papers from Min-Jean Yin, who was working at Pfizer’s La Jolla site. Five papers that came out of her work there are now being retracted – duplicate images in the gels were picked up by folks who commented on PubPeer, and an internal Pfizer investigation confirmed the duplications. It’s taken a few months, but it appears that not only is Pfizer requesting that the papers all be retracted, but that Yin is no longer an employee of the company.
Here are the five papers, and as you can see, they stretch across several different projects:
- miR-221 Promotes Tumorigenesis in Human Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cells
- Targeting 3-Phosphoinoside-Dependent Kinase-1 to Inhibit Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I Induced AKT and p70 S6 Kinase Activation in Breast Cancer Cells
- A novel class of specific Hsp90 small molecule inhibitors demonstrate in vitro and in vivo anti-tumor activity in human melanoma cells
- Effective Targeting of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cells by PF-4942847, a Novel Oral Inhibitor of Hsp 90
- Nek6 Mediates Human Cancer Cell Transformation And Is A Potential Cancer Therapeutic Target
What isn’t clear is how much of this fraud affected internal work at Pfizer. You’d have to think that Yin was generating proprietary data for these various projects, and eventually they were cleared for publication for one reason or another. The way it works in the drug industry, projects are often some way back in the rear-view mirror by the time that happens, and you generally aren’t able to go back and generate new data just for the paper (or at least not much). So you really have to wonder if some of Pfizer’s own drug discovery efforts got messed up by some of this fakery, or if these were just images stuck on to make the manuscripts look more complete. Neither possibility is good, of course. . .