A research article by scientists of the prestigious National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), published in October 2011, has been retracted by Cancer Science, a journal of the Japanese Cancer Society.
The matter came to light after NIPER director K K Bhutani received an anonymous mail a few days ago, giving details of the retraction. On checking the website of the journal, the information was found to be true, said sources.
The article was written by two faculty members and two students of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. It was published in Cancer Science — Wiley Online Library on October 18, 2011.
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The writers were Professor Kulbhushan Tikoo, in charge of the department; Assistant Professor Gopabandhu Jena, and students Abhijit Babaji Shinde and Chanchal Gupta.
According to the journal’s website, the article has been retracted at the request of the editor-in-chief and authors due to “inappropriate image utilisation’’. The article was entitled ‘Modulation of p53/Akt/phosphatase and tensin homolog expression by esculetin potentiates the anticancer activity of cisplatin and prevents its nephrotoxicity’’.
The article described the anti-cancer activity of esculetin, a natural compound, and how its combination with cisplatin could lead to the development of a “novel therapeutic regimen”.
The image, whose utilisation has been called “inappropriate”, gives magnified images of a histological examination of control rats and describes how esculetin treatment along with cisplatin “showed maximum reduction in tumor volume” as compared to cisplatin alone-treated rats.
Dean A K Chakraborti confirmed the development. “A few days ago, we received a mail regarding the retraction. The mail was addressed to the director but, surprisingly, it was sent on my personal email address as well. It is probably an old story but came to light only after the mail,” he said.
Asked if any action will be taken against the scientists, the Dean said, “Any action or inquiry into the matter does not come under my purview. I just happened to get a copy of the mail. I do not even know about the exact reason for the retraction. You must ask the director.”
Director Bhutani could not be reached despite repeated calls. He also did not respond to questions sent on his email.
Assistant Professor G B Jena, too, could not be reached. Prof Kulbhushan Tikoo, when contacted, said, “Who gave you the news? You must talk to the Public Relations Officer,” and hung up the phone.
Sources said, “Retraction is looked down upon by the scientific fraternity. ‘Inappropriate utilisation’ generally means either self-plagiarism (reproducing work already published earlier) or plagiarism.’’