The Golden Arches paper set

Today I found four papers that appear to share colony formation and tumor photos with each other. Because they do not share authors or institutions, and because they all investigated a different type of cancer, it is hard to imagine how these four ended up with the same photos. The authors might have all used the same outsourcing laboratory or paper mill.

Duplicated photos across papers

Although I am still better in finding duplications within scientific papers, I am starting to find duplications of figures across papers. There appear to be many papers that share the same photos, even though they were authored by completely different researchers in different locations.

It is hard to find similar images in research papers by doing a reversed Google image search. The figures in research papers often consists of multiple panels, and it is not easy to find a match by using just one panel.

So lately I have been searching for keywords or phrases, which has been a bit more successful discovering papers with similar photos. I suspect that these papers are all created by the same entity or company.

The Golden Arches colony photos

Today’s search started with a paper that contained the following image of a colony formation assay. It had peculiar “M”-shaped reflections that caught my eye. They reminded me of the “Golden Arches“, the yellow letter M that is the symbol of a very well known fast-food restaurant chain.

And then I saw the duplication. Can you spot it as well?

Source: DOI: 10.26355/eurrev_202003_20504

If you have trouble spotting it – and this is not a simple duplication! – here is an different version that might be easier. Can you spot it now?

Tumor nudes and more golden arches

This paper also had a photo of tumors with the rather remarkable phrasing “The macroscopic observation of tumor nudes“. Using this as a search in Google Scholar I found another paper with that phrase – and some of the same tumor photos!

A bit more digging around resulted in two more papers sharing either tumor photos or Golden Arches photos.

Four or more?

So now I had found a total of four papers, all from different researchers who had been testing tumor cell lines from different cancer types, but using the same photos.

I suspect that these four papers were all generated by the same laboratory or company. Maybe the authors did not have access to a lab and outsourced some experiments, or maybe they simply bought a complete paper from a paper mill. You can read more about paper mills in my blog post about the Tadpole paper mill, a set of 400 papers that all share the same Western blot background.

  1. C.-S. Liu , Q. Zhou , Y.-D. Zhang , Y. Fu, Long Noncoding RNA SOX2OT Maintains the Stemness of Pancreatic Cancer Cells by Regulating DEK via Interacting With miR-200a/141, European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 2020; 24: 2368-2379, DOI: 10.26355/eurrev_202003_20504, [PubPeer]
  2. Yong Liu, Chuanping Yang, Chengsong Cao, Qing Li, Xin Jin, Hanping Shi, Hsa_circ_RNA_0011780 Represses the Proliferation and Metastasis of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer by Decreasing FBXW7 via Targeting miR-544a OncoTargets and Therapy 2020:13 745–755, DOI: 10.2147/ott.s236162, [Pubpeer]
  3. L. Liu , Y. Zhu , A.-M. Liu , Y. Feng , Y. Chen, Long noncoding RNA LINC00511 involves in breast cancer recurrence and radioresistance by regulating STXBP4 expression via miR-185 European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 2019; 23: 7457-7468, DOI: 10.26355/eurrev_201909_18855, [PubPeer]
  4. S. Zhao, N.-F. Fan , X.-H. Chen , C.-H. Zhuo , C.-W. Xu , R.-B. Lin, Long noncoding RNA PVT1-214 enhances gastric cancer progression by upregulating TrkC expression in competitively sponging way European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 2019; 23: 4173-4184, DOI: 10.26355/eurrev_201905_17920, [PubPeer]

I would not be surprised at all if there were more papers in this set.

Updates: more papers added

Update July 3, 2020: two more papers were added to this set.

  • W He, Z-X Qiao, B Ma, Long noncoding RNA FAM201A mediates the metastasis of lung squamous cell cancer via regulating ABCE1 expression, European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 2019; 23: 10343-10353, DOI: 10.26355/eurrev_201912_19672 [Pubpeer]
  • A.-M. Liu, Y. Zhu, Z.-W. Huang, L. Lei, S.-Z. Fu, Y. Chen, Long noncoding RNA FAM201A involves in radioresistance of non-small-cell lung cancer by enhancing EGFR expression via miR-370, European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 2019; 23: 5802-5814, DOI: 10.26355/eurrev_201907_18319 [Pubpeer]

Let me know in the comments below if you found more Golden Arches!

One thought on “The Golden Arches paper set”

  1. “It had peculiar “M”-shaped reflections that caught my eye.”

    The M-shape from light reflecting off the inside of a cylindrical surface onto the base of the cylinder is a “caustic”. A term I could also apply to Dr Bik.


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