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Health care companies cut ties with Potti

Two health care companies have cut ties with a Duke cancer researcher whose research methods and credentials have been called into question.

Eli Lilly and Company and CancerGuide Diagnostics ended their relationships with Dr. Anil Potti, an associate professor of medicine, over allegations that Potti falsified portions of his resume and committed research misconduct, company officials recently told The Chronicle.

The companies cut their ties with Potti in July after The Cancer Letter revealed evidence that Potti fabricated several awards on his resume, drawing new scrutiny to the cancer researcher’s science, which had been questioned for months. Duke also placed Potti on paid administrative leave in July, when the University began investigations into his credentials and research.

“Based on the recent events, we terminated the relationship with Dr. Potti,” CancerGuide Diagnostics Chief Executive Officer Dr. Myla Lai-Goldman told The Chronicle. “Certainly, we’re disappointed.”

Potti’s industry ties were first reported in The Cancer Letter, but the companies’ moves to distance themselves from the doctor have not previously been reported.

Potti had been involved with CancerGuide since at least 2006, according to a document the company filed in order to operate in North Carolina. Potti is listed in the document as a director and secretary of Oncogenomics, Inc., which changed its name to CancerGuide Diagnostics early this year.

CancerGuide, a private company that develops genomics-based cancer tests, has licensed technology based on Potti’s research from Duke, Lai-Goldman said. But she said that even if the technology turns out to be based on flawed science, CancerGuide will be able to continue developing its genomic tests.

“While Duke was the basis for some of our early research, it’s not the foundation of CancerGuide’s future,” Lai-Goldman said. “The foundation of CancerGuide’s future is going to come from our own work, our own research, our own development.”

The University also had an ownership stake in CancerGuide, but it has been working to divest its stake since the allegations against Potti emerged in July, said Dr. Michael Cuffe, vice president for medical affairs. Lai-Goldman declined to comment on Duke’s divestment from the company.

At Eli Lilly, a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company, Potti served as a consultant and speaker, Carla Cox, a company spokesperson, wrote in an e-mail. Cox said Potti had been a member of the company’s thoracic speaker faculty since 2006 and had also participated in scientific advisory board meetings.

Eli Lilly paid Potti $15,000 in 2010 to speak to other doctors, according to a disclosure document on the company’s website. Cox said Potti lectured to oncologists about one of Eli Lilly’s chemotherapy drugs.

“In light of the questions raised about Dr. Potti in July of this year, Lilly suspended association with him until this issue can be resolved,” Cox said. “We look forward to Duke’s full review of this matter.”

Eli Lilly is also a collaborator on one of three clinical trials based on Potti’s research. Enrollment in the trials was suspended in July when the investigations involving Potti began. Cox said Eli Lilly supported the decision to suspend the trial it was involved in. She added that the company does not currently plan to ask the University to return funding provided for the study.

Potti was also a consultant for GlaxoSmithKline, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. The company paid him $6,000 to participate in a clinical oncology advisory board meeting in 2009, Melinda Stubbee, a company spokesperson, wrote in an e-mail. But Stubbee said the company has no ongoing association with Potti.

Stubbee declined to say whether Glaxo would consider working with Potti in the future.

“I wouldn’t speculate on any future work with Dr. Potti,” she wrote. “I am not aware of any invitations to him that are pending.”


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