Duke sued over Potti case

Anil Potti, courtesy Duke

From the “not terribly surprising” department: Eight patients — or their estates — who enrolled in clinical trials at Duke overseen by Anil Potti and colleagues have sued the university.

The 90-page lawsuit, which names Duke, Potti, Potti’s boss Joseph Nevins, CancerGuide Diagnostics (in which Potti and Nevins had an interest), among others, does a thorough job of documenting the case. In particular, it reviews the history of the trials, which were stopped in 2009, restarted, and then stopped for good as more and more issues came to light. It emphasizes, as you would expect, that Duke and the Potti team were warned repeatedly about problems in their work, notably by Keith Baggerly and a colleague.

Potti and colleagues have, as Retraction Watch readers will remember, now retracted five papers.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Thomas Henson, told Raleigh-Durham’s ABC11:

Duke conducted clinical trials on cancer patients that should never have occurred. The trials were based on bad science. Researchers across the country had been telling Duke and warning Duke about the bad science.

The lawsuit makes two dozen claims for relief, on the basis of everything from medical negligence to “misrepresentation/unjust enrichment” (based on the researchers’ financial interest in related companies) to “loss of consortium” with spouses.

One thing we noticed was that Sarah Avery, who did some great reporting on the Potti case for the News & Observer, was the Duke spokesperson who responded to the station:

Contacted by ABC 11 Thursday, Duke said it couldn’t comment on active litigation, but spokesperson Sarah Avery said the university is actively investigating Potti’s research and possible misconduct.

Others noted Avery’s move in March, but this was the first time we’ve seen her make an official Duke comment on the matter.

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