Former patients of discredited Duke cancer researcher Dr. Anil Potti have filed a lawsuit against the University.
The lawsuit was filed in Durham County Superior Court Wednesday on behalf of eight patients who underwent clinical trials based on Potti’s work. The lawsuit was filed against the University, Duke University Health System, Potti, Dr. Joseph Nevins—who co-authored many papers with Potti—and five other defendants. The 73-page filing alleges that the defendants subjected the patients—who are asserting claims jointly—to fraudulent and dangerous clinical trials and improper and unnecessary chemotherapy, among other complaints.
Only two of the eight plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are still living.
The University received the lawsuit Thursday, said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, adding that this is the first lawsuit filed against Duke related to Potti.
“We are going to decline to comment on pending litigation,” Schoenfeld said.
Potti resigned from Duke last November after accepting responsibility for the faults in his research.
Attorney Thomas Henson, of the North Carolina personal injury firm HensonFuerst, wrote in an email Thursday that he had filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs and was continuing an investigation into the clinical trials.
“Duke conducted clinical trials on cancer patients that should not have occurred,” Henson said.
Victor Dzau, chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System, deferred comment on the lawsuit to Doug Stokke, DUHS associate vice president for communications.
“I’m out of town,” Dzau said. “I only got an email saying a lawsuit was filed.”
Stokke could not be reached for comment.
Pamela Bernard, vice president and general counsel to the University, also declined to comment.
Henson noted the suit focuses on the University’s treatment of cancer patients given the information available at the time of the trials.
“Respected researchers and others in the oncology world repeatedly informed and warned Duke that the trials were based on bad science,” he said. “Duke failed to give their patients full, informed consent with regard to the clinical trials and the underlying bad science.”
The statement of facts in the lawsuit traces a timeline from the creation of the Institute of Genome Sciences and Policy in 2003—the year Potti joined DUHS under the supervision of Nevins. Potti, Nevins and others formed Oncogenomics, Inc. in 2006. That company is also named as a defendant.
The lawsuit alleges that Potti, Nevins and Duke were warned repeatedly by outside researchers that some of their genomic research was flawed.
Henson said the lawsuit aims to shed light on how trials are carried out.
“One of our clients’ primary motivations with this litigation is to uncover the whole truth behind these clinical trials, so that future patients involved in clinical trials will be better informed about how these types of trials should be conducted,” he said.
Potti is currently practicing medicine at the Coastal Cancer Center in Myrtle Beach, S.C. according to the Center’s website. The facility he works at conducts clinical trials.
Sanette Tanaka contributed reporting.