Fired Pfizer Scientist Slated for 2 More Retractions, Bringing the Total to 7

Published: Sep 01, 2017

Fired Pfizer Scientist Slated for 2 More Retractions, Bringing the Total to 7
August 30, 2017 (Last Updated: August 31, 2017)
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

After a former Pfizer employee’s publications came under question, the company launched a review of Min-Jean Yin’s publication history and have pushed for two additional retractions.

As reported in April, five papers published by Min-Jean Yin, who worked at Pfizer in La Jolla, Calif., as a senior principal scientist from 2003 to about September 2016, came under fire for problems with some of the images. The articles were:

• miR-221 Promotes Tumorigenesis in Human Triple Negative Breast Cancer (published in PLOS ONE in 2013)

• Targeting 3-Phosphoinoside-Dependent Kinase-1 to Inhibit Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 Induced AKT and p70 S6 Kinase Activation in Breast Cancer Cells (published in PLOS ONE in 2012)

• A novel class of specific Hsp90 small molecule inhibitors demonstrate in vitro and in vivo anti-tumor activity in human melanoma cells (Cancer Letters, published 2011)

• Effective Targeting of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cells by PF-4942847, a Novel Oral Inhibitor of Hsp 90 (Clinical Cancer Research, published 2011)

• Nek6 Mediates Human Cancer Cell Transformation And Is A Potential Cancer Therapeutic Target (Molecular Cancer Research, published 2010)

The retractions are related to problems with images. The April notice for “miR-221 Promotes Tumorigenesis in Human Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cells,” states, “The Authors Min-Jean Yin and Rounak Nassirpour and a Pfizer representative contacted the editorial office to raise that there are image duplications in Figure 4B of this article. Pfizer has undertaken a review and deemed that important conclusions in the manuscript cannot be verified, as original images cannot be located. In light of the concerns identified, the authors and the PLOS ONE Editors retract this article.”

In its subsequent review, Pfizer identified two more papers that merit retraction. One, published in Clinical Cancer Research, was retracted in early August. A second article, published in PLOS ONE in 2013, is undergoing review after Pfizer requested a retraction on May 1.

The article in Clinical Cancer Research is “Targeting Small Cell Lung Cancer Harboring PIK3CA Mutation with a Selective Oral PI3K Inhibitor PF-4989216.”

The article’s retraction notice reads, in part, “In early 2017, a representative from Pfizer contacted the CCR editorial office to request a retraction of the above-mentioned article. According to the representative, ‘Pfizer has discovered that several western blot images displayed in the publication appear to be duplicates of other images. In certain cases, we confirmed that a suspected duplicate image did not match in any way the original, authentic image found in laboratory records. In other cases, the original image appears to be derived from a separate experiment that was not displayed in the publication but that we identified in laboratory files.’”

After a more extensive review, the company found more problems, including images that were mislabeled or where the originals couldn’t be found in laboratory records.

The first PLOS ONE paper cited earlier (“miR-122 Regulates…”), has a duplicate image and is being reviewed.

An article published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, “PF-0491502, a Potent and Selective Oral Inhibitor of PI3K and mTOR Kinases with Antitumor Activity,” was also found to have an image error that didn’t affect the conclusions of the article. A Pfizer spokesperson stated, “Pfizer found that Figure 6C in the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics article does not accurately represent the underlying data for that experiment. Based on this finding, Pfizer commissioned a review of the entire article and has concluded that all data in the paper, apart from Figure 6C, are accurate and that the unsupported result depicted in Figure 6C does not materially affect the findings of the paper.”

Pfizer has requested that the publication remove that image and modify its caption by issuing a correction. The company indicates that its review is completed and it believes all problems in the articles have been identified and appropriate measures taken.

Min-Jean Yin was fired from Pfizer and moved to San Diego-based Diagnologix as a general manager. However, Retraction Watch notes that her LinkedIn link to the company is no longer active. Marlena Walls, the first author on the Clinical Cancer Research paper, was employed at in San Diego, until she left after a May 2017 workforce reduction.

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