Anil Potti, the former cancer researcher whose work has become the subject of intense scrutiny that has already led to the retraction of five papers, didn’t tell the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) about two very relevant corporate relationships he had when he published papers there, Retraction Watch has learned.
JAMA has published two papers by Potti and colleagues: 2008’s “Gene Expression Signatures, Clinicopathological Features, and Individualized Therapy in Breast Cancer,” and 2010’s “Age- and Sex-Specific Genomic Profiles in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.”
The Cancer Letter, which has been way out front in the Potti case, first reported Potti’s relationships with Eli Lilly and CancerGuide Diagnostics (formerly Oncogenomics, Inc.). As The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper, reported last September, the two companies cut their ties with Potti in July 2010 after allegations of misconduct and lying about a Rhodes Scholarship came to light.
But that was after the two papers were published, and Potti had relationships with both since 2006. As The Chronicle notes, he was a director at CancerGuide Diagnostics (formerly Oncogenomics, Inc.), and
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.
Late last week, JAMA told us that the reason why neither paper reports any corporate ties is that Potti had not disclosed those relationships:
JAMA publishes financial disclosures as reported by the author.
Apparently, Retraction Watch was the first to ask JAMA about the implications of The Chronicle story:
We will take the information about the corporate relationships mentioned in that article under consideration and follow our usual approach for evaluating it.
- Any potential conflicts of interest “involving the work under consideration for publication” (during the time involving the work, from initial conception and planning to present),
- Any “relevant financial activities outside the submitted work” (over the 3 years prior to submission), and
- Any “other relationships or activities that readers could perceive to have influenced, or that give the appearance of potentially influencing” what is written in the submitted work (based on all relationships that were present during the 3 years prior to submission).
It also says
Although many universities and other institutions have established policies and thresholds for reporting financial interests and other conflicts of interest, JAMA requires complete disclosure of all relevant financial relationships and potential financial conflicts of interest, regardless of amount or value. For example, authors of a manuscript about hypertension should report all financial relationships they have with all manufacturers of products used in the management of hypertension, not only those relationships with companies whose specific products are mentioned in the manuscript. If authors are uncertain about what constitutes a relevant financial interest or relationship, they should contact the editorial office.
In our experience, this kind of failure to disclose would warrant a correction or clarification, not a retraction.
The JAMA papers are not among the five that Potti has retracted so far, and the editors have no plans to retract them at this time, JAMA said Tuesday. (We’ve been asking since January.)
We checked the five retracted papers, and none of them includes a disclosure about the two companies, either.