The MD Anderson Cancer Center, part of the University of Texas and located in Houston, is a giant hub of huge cancer research money, even for US standards. They also do a lot of science there, which only purpose seems to be publishing in big journals in order to generate even more money. If there is any genuine interest to help cancer patients with actual research: this stands in a stark contrast with MD Anderson’s evident attitude to research reproducibility and data integrity. A number of their star researchers who published in most respectable journals papers, had their data flagged on the whistleblowing platform PubPeer as highly problematic. Yet MD Anderson apparently cannot care less. Their star cancer researcher and businessman Raghu Kalluri was never investigated for many problems in his publications, either in those with or those without his misconduct-tainted Portuguese co-author and ex-MD Anderson employee Sonia Melo. When nobody ever investigates your research practices (e.g., because your research institution is blinded by the investor money you brought in), you will per definition never be found guilty of any misconduct. This is probably exactly why the elite journal Nature recently accepted a new paper from the Kalluri lab (Kamerkar et al 2017), on the same topic of exosomes as cancer biomarkers as his irreproducible earlier masterpiece with Melo (Melo et al, Nature 2015). The new Nature paper even again features the same disgraced co-author, who lost a Nature Genetics paper (Melo et al, 2009) and her EMBO Young Investigator funding due to data manipulation.
There is more evidence for research misconduct at MD Anderson. Its former president Ronald DePinho resigned from his position in March 2017, in the wake of enormous financial losses of almost half a billion dollar, but unlike his almost 800 colleagues there, he did not lose his job. DePinho’s own PubPeer record of questionable data is very impressive, but not as impressive as his past salary as president of MD Anderson of $2 Million a year (he now earns “only” $800k).
Bharat Aggarwal left MD Anderson in December 2015 after nine retractions, which certainly restricted his capacity for impactful publishing and funding acquisition in the US, which might have in turn also diminished Aggarwal’s practical use for the Texan elite cancer research center. The pharmacologist retired honourably and kept all his pension and benefits. His PubPeer record can be admired here. Aggarwal’s data manipulations in around 65 papers were originally flagged by pseudonymous Juuichi Jigen, afterwards whole 85 Aggarwal papers were reported (with little consequences) to the US Office of Research Integrity (ORI) by the mitochondria researcher and data integrity detective Paul Brookes, who used to operate a website science-fraud.org, until he was forced to shut down his site after legal attacks. Brookes also flagged the data integrity deficits in papers of others former MD Anderson researchers, namely Dina Chelouche Lev (PubPeer record here) and Ratna Vadlamudi (PubPeer record here). PubPeer also lists numerous concerns for the papers by the MD Anderson leukaemia researchers Michael Andreeff and Marina Konopleva.
A reader of my site forwarded me now a dossier about the works Anil Sood, which I present below. Sood is professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine and co-director of Center for RNA Interference and Non-Coding RNAs at MD Anderson, his many grants are listed here. Sood is paid $455k annually by MD Anderson, even slightly more than Kalluri. Unlike Kalluri (PubPeer record here), Sood never had to correct a paper for data integrity problems, despite his impressive list of PubPeer evidence of questionable data. What follows below is an extra. Will MD Anderson care?
Not likely. Their research integrity Ombudsman William Plunkett did not reply to my first email request where I asked if he is interested to see the Sood dossier. My reminder two days later was answered with an auto-reply: “I am out of my office and will reply to your email when I return”. No date was specified: in which year or century Prof Plunkett will be back to deal with my inquiries, I suppose I was expected to wait.
Thaker PH, Yazici S, Nilsson MB, Yokoi K, Tsan RZ, He J, Kim SJ, Fidler IJ, Sood AK. Antivascular therapy for orthotopic human ovarian carcinoma through blockade of the vascular endothelial growth factor and epidermal growth factor receptors. Clin Cancer Res. 2005 Jul 1;11(13):4923-33.
Moreno-Smith M, Lee SJ, Lu C, Nagaraja AS, He G, Rupaimoole R, Han HD, Jennings NB, Roh JW, Nishimura M, Kang Y, Allen JK, Armaiz GN, Matsuo K, Shahzad MM, Bottsford-Miller J, Langley RR, Cole SW, Lutgendorf SK, Siddik ZH, Sood AK. Biologic effects of dopamine on tumor vasculature in ovarian carcinoma. Neoplasia. 2013 May;15(5):502-10.
Lu C, Kamat AA, Lin YG, Merritt WM, Landen CN, Kim TJ, Spannuth W, Arumugam T, Han LY, Jennings NB, Logsdon C, Jaffe RB, Coleman RL, Sood AK. Dual targeting of endothelial cells and pericytes in antivascular therapy for ovarian carcinoma. Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Jul 15;13(14):4209-17.
Thaker PH, Deavers M, Celestino J, Thornton A, Fletcher MS, Landen CN, Kinch MS, Kiener PA, Sood AK. EphA2 expression is associated with aggressive features in ovarian carcinoma. Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Aug 1;10(15):5145-50.
Pradeep S, Kim SW, Wu SY1, Nishimura M, Chaluvally-Raghavan P, Miyake T, Pecot CV, Kim SJ, Choi HJ, Bischoff FZ, Mayer JA, Huang L, Nick AM, Hall CS, Rodriguez-Aguayo C, Zand B, Dalton HJ, Arumugam T, Lee HJ, Han HD, Cho MS, Rupaimoole R, Mangala LS, Sehgal V, Oh SC, Liu J, Lee JS, Coleman RL, Ram P, Lopez-Berestein G, Fidler IJ, Sood AK13. Hematogenous metastasis of ovarian cancer: rethinking mode of spread. Cancer Cell. 2014 Jul 14;26(1):77-91. doi: 10.1016/j.ccr.2014.05.002.