BU Cancer Researcher Fabricated Data, Feds Report

The case is detailed on the website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity:

Sheng Wang, PhD, Boston University School of Medicine Cancer Research Center: Based on the Respondent's acceptance of ORI's research misconduct findings, ORI found that Dr. Sheng Wang, who has been an Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine Cancer Research Center (BUSM), engaged in research misconduct in research supported by National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grants R01 CA102940 and R01 CA101992.

In today's Boston Globe, Carolyn Johnson reports:

Sheng Wang, an assistant professor whose research involved molecular biology approaches to understanding cancer, no longer works at BU. His employment at the university ended July 15, according to a spokeswoman, who said she could not comment on the terms on which he left.

Wang has agreed to retract the two papers and will not be eligible for or involved in federally funded research for two years, according to the finding of research misconduct issued Friday by the Office of Research Integrity of the US Department of Health and Human Services...

The federal authorities found that Wang engaged in research misconduct in projects supported by two federal grants from the National Cancer Institute. According to the federal finding, Wang fabricated experiments used in six out of seven figures in one paper and six out of eight figures in the other.

He is listed as the senior author on both papers, which were published in 2009 and explored the role of a gene that suppresses tumor growth.

In a statement, BU said: "The Office of Research Integrity’s (ORI) decision resulted from an internal review process initiated by Boston University in accordance with institutional policy and federal regulations."

In her story in The Globe, reporter Carolyn Johnson quotes Srikumar Chellappan, chairman of the department of tumor biology at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, who oversaw Wang when he was a postdoctoral fellow.

“I do not recall anything that would have made me suspicious of his research practices,’’ Chellappan wrote. “He was a regular postdoc who got a mix of positive and negative results. I am extremely saddened and disappointed to hear this news, and I hope he will learn from this experience.’’

(As an aside, while I was tootling around the ORI's website, I found an instructional video called: "The Lab: How to Avoid Research Misconduct." I'm not sure if it will truly prevent academics from fabricating research, but before the very heavy messaging kicks in, the clip is rather entertaining with it's "Law & Order"-esque soundtrack and faux TV reporters. Watch it here.

...And speaking of retractions, here's the latest from the region, again courtesy of Ivan Oransky at Retraction Watch. This time it's Brown University’s Derek Stein, one of the authors of a paper in the journal Physical Review Letter, who withdrew it after someone pointed out an error.

This program aired on August 10, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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