Update on Anil Potti: A patient in a trial based on retracted research speaks out; Baggerly on how to prevent the next fiasco

courtesy Duke

A quick post this Sunday morning to draw your attention to two must-read items for anyone interested in the Anil Potti case or in how one goes about checking data. (A second paper by Potti et al was officially retracted on Friday.)

First, a terrific profile of Joyce Shoffner in the Charlotte News & Observer. Shoffner

was one of 110 Duke patients enrolled in three clinical trials based on the research of Dr. Anil Potti, who resigned in November as an associate professor at Duke.

Here at Retraction Watch, we obviously think all retractions are worth following. But we hope this story will convince those who shrug and say such items are inside baseball, or “none of your damn business,” that they need to re-evaluate their positions. This is where the rubber hits the road: A woman with cancer who now has to endure, as the News & Observer puts it, “a string of what-ifs.” Please read it.

If you’re up for a look at the scientific nitty-gritty of what was wrong with the Potti et al data, and how attempts to replicate it were stonewalled and ignored, view Keith Baggerly’s presentation from the MCMski conference in Park City, Utah, that just ended. Baggerly is the MD Anderson Cancer Center researcher who first raised questions about Potti’s work in 2007.

As e-Patient Dave put it in a comment on our Friday post:

Inability to reproduce the researcher’s result is troublesome, because the whole point of the scientific method is to find results that other researchers can rely on.

The title of Baggerly’s presentation is simple, and hard to argue with: “Importance of Reproducible Research in Genomics.” The narrative — which is understandably full of jargon and sophisticated scientific detail — is straightforward. Baggerly warns us: “Hold on folks, the ride’s just beginning…” But he also explains how his team analyzes papers, and how we might avoid future such cases.

Set aside some time to read both.

A plug: Baggerly keynotes this year’s Council of Science Editors meeting in Baltimore. Ivan is on two panels there: “What can Editors do to Deter and Detect Scientific Misconduct?” and “Media Outreach: Tips for Getting Attention in a Wired World.”

Hat tip on Baggerly presentation: Xi’an’s Og.

One thought on “Update on Anil Potti: A patient in a trial based on retracted research speaks out; Baggerly on how to prevent the next fiasco”

  1. Anil Potti may have resigned either on his on, or, otherwise, but, a person within Duke University advised me of the fact that Duke will legally defend Potti, if litigation is initiated.

    My sister was one of the first patients admitted to this study. She received a phone call from one of the Doctors in the program on November 19, 2010 apologizing for the news about Dr. Potti. The next day, we found out that the issue started last July. She never received an official notification from Duke, even though she has continued to be seen and treated there since July. I find it hard to believe that Dr. Potti’s credentials were not checked regardless of what the Duke President says. My sister and I both worked at Duke University for quite a while. Our Father retired from Duke University.
    No one in my family could ever afford to attend Duke University, but, we did contribute to the well being of the faculty , staff and students. My sister is devastated because of this mess. I believe that if any of you had a family member or friend go through this, you might look at it differently.
    Technically, I do not care about peer reviews, papers published, lab protocols, face value acceptance of resumes, or, passing the buck. Dr. J. Nevins in his eagerness to put his name on every thing, is just as responsible as any one else.
    What I do expect is that an institution such as Duke needs to step up. I have seen a ton of inter-net stories and after the fact comments concerning this issue with Doctor Potti, Duke University, Eli Lilly, Glaxosmithkline, (Dr. Potti received thousands of dollars numerous times to speak at functions held by these pharmaceutical companies on this genome project) in the last few days. The fingers are pointing everywhere.
    Yes, this could eventually affect the University, the Potti backers, the Federal grant money applied to the project, reputations of both the University and it’s administration. I know from personal experience that 99.9% of the general employees and mid-management staff do a great job. Most of them care deeply about providing the best service possible to the public, students and faculty of the University.
    The sad part is that no one has reached out to the patients that are ultimately the most affected people of all. I do not have great assets or influence. I will however do everything in my power to ensure that ultimately someone at Duke is held responsible, and, that all of the patients that were boondoggled by this idiot are not forgotten.
    My sister was under the impression until a few days ago that she was fortunate to be included in this study, that her cancer was being aggressively treated based on the hype that the University and it’s staff had given her. She has been in this program since the beginning. My sister has been fighting cancer for about six years total, had surgeries, chemo and everything else prescribed to her based on erroneous data. Cancer is a terrible disease and fighting it is hard enough. Add to that the emotional ups and downs that go with it, she did not need this to add to her struggle.
    Although I was not educated at Duke, I did receive education on the treatment of people. Duke University, this is totally unsatisfactory.
    Mike Allen

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