Cancer researcher nabbed for falsifying data in PHS-funded grants
The Office of Research Integrity (ORI), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, has found that cancer researcher Toni Brand has falsified data in research supported by US Public Health Service (PHS) funds. The discovery of fraud was unearthed in investigations conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM) and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), with additional analysis by ORI in its oversight review.
The investigation determined that Brand—who was a graduate student in the Department of Human Oncology at UWM, then a research fellow in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, UCSF—engaged in research misconduct in work supported by PHS funds, specifically:
- National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grants P30 CA014520, K99 CA160639, T32 CA108462, and U54 CA209891
- National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), NIH, grant UL1 RR025011
- National Center for Translational Sciences (NCATS), NIH, grants U54 TR000021 and UL1 TR000427
- National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), NIH, grant T32 GM081061
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), NIH, grant R01 DE023685.
According to the ORI, Brand’s research misconduct consisted of “knowingly or recklessly falsifying or fabricating” western blot data, by reusing and relabeling data to represent the expression of proteins in control experiments measuring the purity of cytoplasmic and nuclear cell fractionation, measurements of proteins of interest, and measurements of the same protein under different experimental conditions or loading controls. The fraudulent data was included in 24 figures in grant applications submitted to NIDCR, NIH, her Ph.D. thesis dissertation, and seven published papers.
The ORI reported that Brand has agreed to have her research supervised for four years, dating back from March 23, 2022. For any future submissions of applications for PHS support, she must submit a plan to ORI for approval.
Additionally, during the supervision period, Bland will receive oversight and guidance from a committee of up to three senior faculty members from the institutions. These professionals will review primary data from her laboratory once each quarter, then submit a report to ORI at six-month intervals setting forth the committee meeting dates and Brand’s compliance with appropriate research standards.
Additionally, Brand must request that a number of papers published in peer-reviewed journals be corrected or retracted, including pieces published with the Public Library of Science (PLOS) One, and Cancer Research. She has been directed to copy ORI and the research integrity officers at UWM and UCF on the correspondence with the journals.