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Former Moffitt Researcher Has 19 Studies Retracted From Journal

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Dr. Jin Q. Cheng

A former researcher at Moffitt Cancer Center had 19 studies retracted from a medical journal after it was found the same data were used to represent different experiments.

Dr. Jin Q. Cheng, who specialized in molecular oncology, requested that the Journal of Biological Chemistry withdraw the articles after an investigation by Moffitt.

The journal published notices on its website in place of each article, explaining how Cheng reused images in his papers.

“We take this all pretty seriously and try to maintain the highest standards we can and this just happened,” said F. Peter Guengerich, deputy editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. “It's unfortunate.”

Ivan Oransky, cofounder of a website called Retraction Watch, says Cheng now holds a place among the site's Top 30 most retracted authors. He suspects more retractions may follow.

Scientists are under pressure to publish in prestigious journals in order to get tenure and promotions. Oranksy says some may cut corners to get there.

When that happens, there are several victims, including the taxpayers who fund the research and patients who rely on it.

"Other scientists who rely on this research -- you know some of these papers were cited a few hundred times each -- those people have all chased down rabbit holes. They've gone down pathways that actually weren't worth going down and this researcher knew that and yet published findings that suggested they were."

In a prepared statement, Moffitt says it adheres to the highest ethical standards in research and clinical care.

Officials at Moffitt worked with the journal to resolve the issue and are continuing to investigate. Patient safety was not affected, according to the statement.

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.