Former Pfizer Cancer Scientist Gets All 5 Papers Retracted

Published: Apr 24, 2017

Former Pfizer Cancer Scientist Gets All 5 Papers Retracted April 18, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

A former Pfizer researcher, who has since left the company, had five papers five papers retracted from several technical journals, including PLOS ONE.

Min-Jean Yin worked at Pfizer in La Jolla, Calif. as senior principal scientist from 2003 to about September 2016. She has since joined San Diego-based Diagnologix as general manager.

At issue were five papers published in PLOS ONE:

• 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-I 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)

Yvonne Cristovici, assistant general counsel in Compliance Division of Pfizer, made a statement to Leonid Schneider’s For Better Science blog in October 2016, saying, “We have been able to confirm that all or nearly all of the images in these five articles that were flagged as potential duplicates on indeed appear to be duplicates. Based on the findings from the investigation, Pfizer is recommending to the journals that all five articles be retracted, and Pfizer also has encouraged the first and corresponding/senior authors of each of the five papers to request that their article be retracted. The senior and corresponding author of each paper, Min-Jean Yin, Ph.D., has agreed with Pfizer’s recommendation to request retraction of each article. Each of the three scientists who served as first authors of these five papers, Pramod Mehta, Sangita Baxi, and Rounak Nassirpour, Ph.D., has also agreed to request retraction of the article or articles for which he or she served as first author.”

In a Retraction Watch article today, PLOS ONE retracted the last of five papers cited. Both retractions are related to duplications of images. The 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.”

The PLOS ONE statement for the “Targeting 3-Phosphoinoside-Dependent Kinase-1…” article is similar.

An earlier paper in which Min-Jean Yin was involved, published in European Urology, 2014 (Lamoureux et al) was corrected in March 2016. Yin was not the first author, senior author or corresponding author of that paper, and was the only Pfizer employee involved. The study was conducted primarily at the University of British Columbia, and Pfizer consulted with UBC on the allegation.

Martin Gleave, the corresponding author on this paper, told Retraction Watch, “Francois Lamaroux, the first author, had completed his post doctoral training and returned to assume a faculty position in France during the time the manuscript was being drafted, and indeed had been gone for over one year at the time of submission. He recalls having to connect cross sites to complete the manuscript and unfortunately mislabeled the pictures of the Figure 6A during his time in the lab. When he subsequently put together the figures we did not notice this mistake and thus the paper was submitted with the incorrectly labelled original figures.”

Once noticed, Gleave and his staff retrieved the slides and paraffin blocks from their xenograft tumor bank, reanalyzed all the cases, re-stained HSP27 and GRP78, and re-scanned and re-scored the slides. Their results and outliers showed the same trend as the original published results. “Because the error was correctable and did not alter the interpretation of that particular figure or the over results in any way, we did not feel it necessary to retract the paper,” Gleave concluded.

On November 10, 2016, Christovici also informed Leonid Schneider, “Dr. Yin is no longer employed at Pfizer.”

Christovici also emphasized, “Data integrity is paramount to Pfizer’s Research and Developoment efforts, and we appreciate your bringing this to our attention.”

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