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Potti falsified research data, mentor says

The mentor of former Duke researcher Dr. Anil Potti has said that the discredited oncologist deliberately falsified data while at Duke.

Joseph Nevins, Barbara Levine professor of cancer genomics, told “60 Minutes” Sunday that it was “abundantly clear” that Potti had manipulated research data in order to support this theory that genomics could aid the treatment of tumors. This is the first time that Nevins, who collaborated and co-authored a number of research papers with Potti, has acknowledged that the errors found in Potti’s research data were intentional. The University’s investigation into the misconduct of Potti is ongoing.

“It simply couldn’t be random—it had to have been based on a desire to make something work,” he said. “I regret that if some of the issues were raised along the way, this could have been brought to a halt at an earlier time.”

When he went before the Institute of Medicine committee in March, Nevins said he could not address whether the errors were intentional.

“I just can’t get into a position of speculating on how it happened,” he told committee member Thomas Felming, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Washington.

According to the “60 Minutes” segment, the University agreed to comment on the Potti scandal as a cautionary tale for other research institutions. Robert Califf, vice chancellor for clinical research and director of the Duke Translational Medicine Institute, and Nevins were the two University officials featured in the segment.

Potti declined to comment on the research scandal for the segment.

Two major corrections to his work in the Journal of Clinical Oncology were also issued last week, just days after he retracted his ninth paper.

In the paper “Gene Expression Profiles of Tumor Biology Provide a Novel Approach to Prognosis and May Guide the Selection of Therapeutic Targets in Multiple Myeloma,” almost all references to chemotherapy sensitivity were removed, according to Retraction Watch. Corrections also include omissions in the methods, results and discussion section.

According to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, the paper was cited 15 times.

Another of Potti’s papers, “Age-Specific Differences in Oncogenic Pathway Dysregulation and Anthracycline Sensitivity in Patients With Acute Myeloid Leukemia,” also underwent massive corrections.

Corrections included changes in several sections of the article, including a change in the title of the paper—the paper is now titled “Age-Specific Differences in Oncogenic Pathway Dysregulation in Patients With Acute Myeloid Leukemia.” In the content of the paper, all references to chemotherapy or anthracycline sensitivity were also removed. The paper was cited 9 times, according to Retraction Watch.

There are currently two lawsuits pending against Potti, Duke and others affiliated with clinical trials based on his genomic research. He resigned from the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy and the School of Medicine Nov. 19, 2010 following allegations that he had falsified qualifications on applications for federal funding and his resume.

—from Staff Reports


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