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.

Here is the full file of the Anil Sood dossier. Following is some select evidence, and even more is on PubPeer.


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.

Slide2
Contrast adjustment reveals straight edges and lack of background, suggestive of  wilful digital image manipulation. Image copyright: AACR, under fair use

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.

Slide4
Gel bands in red boxes appear duplicated. If true, this would indicate wilful data manipulation. Image copyright: Elsevier, under fair use
Slide5
Same image apparently zoomed in and inappropriately re-used. Image copyright: Elsevier, under fair use

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.

Slide6
Yellow framed image obviously re-used between this and another publication in same journal (Lu et al 2008). Image copyright: AACR, under fair use

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.

Slide10
Two neighbouring western blot bands look identical. If true, this evidences wilful data manipulation. Image copyright: AACR, under fair use

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.

Slide11
Something is not right with this immunofluorescence image. Green signal suddenly gone in the overlay, and the DNA staining (DAPI) seems not to match. Image copyright: Elsevier, under fair use.

8 thoughts on “Anil Sood and other questionable stars of MD Anderson

  1. Same image apparently zoomed in and inappropriately re-used. Image copyright: Elsevier, under fair use

    I’m not saying that I contributed to the relevant pubpeer thread. Just saying, one of those overlap-identifying rectangles makes me happy and proud.

    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

    …But Aggarwal remains much-run-after as a well-remunerated Keynote Speaker at food-supplement scamborees conferences.
    His “impactful publishing capacity” is probably focussed on OMICS journals now. His editorial roles there will help.

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  2. I am glad that someone is asking questions regarding MD Anderson and the way they are handling research integrity cases.

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  3. Way too much money shovelled at doctors living in fancy mansions, way too many people still dying of cancer after billions spent.

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  4. No authors have been noticed? with these questionable images on 28 published papers (so far at Pubpeer) from Sood group at MDACC.
    1. https://pubpeer.com/publications/41345D5A0B74BEB49E69FB88C70D89
    2. https://pubpeer.com/publications/BB557953BDC92F5AE01F9F8D78C471
    3. https://pubpeer.com/publications/6FEEE500CAAF869B3CEB720EA61A5F
    4. https://pubpeer.com/publications/FF8EB6BE7BC568814DCDDBFA7A8F02
    5. https://pubpeer.com/publications/A387CA802D4FDEA7B544A5F5BE9315
    6. https://pubpeer.com/publications/97C63F55C0A3FDD84E5B15298B65FE
    7. https://pubpeer.com/publications/18775E8B92454F8A1580B7F5FFE501
    8. https://pubpeer.com/publications/ACFDDAB4B04726895AF4A8BE39136A
    9. https://pubpeer.com/publications/664E1025444203290B85023C6BBF63
    10. https://pubpeer.com/publications/46B54DFF7ED1EE2FCC0AEB59310163
    11. https://pubpeer.com/publications/2AE801810C514EA0D137B64E780FFF
    12. https://pubpeer.com/publications/BAEAED93DA4C6A5AECE428625F3F24
    13. https://pubpeer.com/publications/F6126D0A36C7AA1DD794F3DAEAB1A4
    14. https://pubpeer.com/publications/DC2711EB12252C11260090ABD6A2E1
    15. https://pubpeer.com/publications/3A996EDBA100AD6500D9EFA565C61E
    16. https://pubpeer.com/publications/1E56DD1C8BC96E737E0C297045A18E
    17. https://pubpeer.com/publications/51D028D92D875906DFDDB2CC1B3F74
    18. https://pubpeer.com/publications/E6F6B3E50D13D0C5AD3469D9DB8336
    19. https://pubpeer.com/publications/B1EF33A5D65F72B15C709D16E9A4AC
    20. https://pubpeer.com/publications/300952C4A75F59617946262DE71F78
    21. https://pubpeer.com/publications/31DA0C968826820E5DBF721B8054A5
    22. https://pubpeer.com/publications/1C5EA686AF0E3644E1EC76D49AD83C
    23. https://pubpeer.com/publications/565C62E8603AEF98B45351B4310867
    24. https://pubpeer.com/publications/649DA4D7EB7652A1004E420D03A1A9
    25. https://pubpeer.com/publications/241F7731551CD2805B96B0F10C67B9
    26. https://pubpeer.com/publications/FE72BF49CD0B4C48934F0D37B0BE44
    27. https://pubpeer.com/publications/46EFC9321F213AB35A52570E2C5AF9
    28. https://pubpeer.com/publications/A46F62F8E4C008FDD6DAE4F7B0BBEE

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    1. Hopefully! I read entire comments from retraction watch as above. Interestingly,
      Aggawal was at the same department where Prof Plunkett is. Moreover, several Professors at the same department are in Sood papers as co-authors or even senior authors.
      – is there any response from Prof Plunkett?

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