Potti and colleagues retract 2008 JAMA paper

Anil Potti‘s retraction count is now eight with the withdrawal of a 2008 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Here’s the notice, which appeared online in JAMA sometime yesterday:

We would like to retract the article entitled “Gene Expression Signatures, Clinicopathological Features, and Individualized Therapy in Breast Cancer,” which was published in the April 2, 2008, issue of JAMA.1 A component of this article reported the use of chemotherapy sensitivity predictions based on an approach described by Potti et al in Nature Medicine in 2006. The Nature Medicine article was recently retracted due to an inability to reproduce the results with the chemotherapy signatures.2 Because a significant component of this JAMA article was based on the use of chemotherapy signatures reported in the Nature Medicine paper, we have decided to retract the JAMA article. We apologize for any negative impact on scientific research or clinical care caused by the publication of our article in JAMA.

The Nature Medicine study was retracted a year ago today. The JAMA study has been cited 64 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Thirteen of those citations were recorded since January of last year, when we first asked JAMA whether they were planning to retract the study.

We also reported that Potti failed to disclose corporate ties when he originally submitted the paper. The retraction would seem to make any correction for that omission moot.

Potti and his colleagues have another paper in JAMA, from 2010, “Age- and Sex-Specific Genomic Profiles in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.” No word on the fate of that one yet.

A Duke official said in August that he expected about a third of Potti’s approximately 40 papers to be completely retracted, and another third to have “a portion retracted with other components remaining intact.”

Meanwhile, Potti continues to publish.

Update, 2 p.m. Eastern, 1/9/11: Read Ivan’s coverage of this story, including comment from M.D. Anderson’s Keith Baggerly and the American Cancer Society’s Otis Brawley, for Reuters.

20 thoughts on “Potti and colleagues retract 2008 JAMA paper”

  1. 64 groups of authors have taken this article seriously enough to cite it. I think the journal has an obligation to inform all authors that it has been retracted. Any of thej may be continuing on work that takes the papers result seriously. This doesn’t help all others who read the paper and have it as part of their thoughts but it will inform at least some people who are directly involved and may not see the retraction.
    Of course I think this applies to all retractions.
    My admiration for Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky continues- thank you both.

    1. And how many of these 64 authors have actually “replicated” the results? I would find those who “replicated” Potti’s results suspicious as well. This could be a good way of actually catching networks of fabricators: see you replicates high-profile findings that then turn out to be fake.

    2. I don’t think that informing authors that this work has been retracted is unreasonable in theory, but in practice, it is certainly beyond the obligation of the journal.

      The journal did their due diligence by publishing the retraction thereby supporting the fact that science behind the paper is without merit; beyond that, I don’t see them having to due anything else, personally.

  2. In the last Potti discussion, I pointed out that the paper published in J Surg Oncology referenced 1 paper by Potti & Nevins (Anguiano A, Nevins JR, Potti A. Toward the individualization of lung cancer therapy. Cancer. 2008;113:1760–7) and another paper from Nevins’ lab (Nevins was last author, the “lab director” position in many publications; West M, Blanchette C, Dressman H, et al. Predicting the clinical status of human breast cancer by using gene expression profiles. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2001;98:11462–7). If Potti retracts the Anguiano, Nevins, Potti paper (which may well happen), what happens to the paper just published, which references that paper?

    1. Seems like a good question, but it’s a hypothetical until the Cancer paper is retracted. In our experience, editors are unlikely to respond to such hypotheticals, and we can’t say we blame them.

  3. The JAMA NSCLC paper should not be far behind. There are numerous glaring deficiencies with it. In some cases, results which are stated in the text do not even correspond with what is shown in the figures. Apart from any research improprieties, it’s a pitiful failure of peer review.

  4. This is interesting. Google search on some of the co-authors gave the following details: Dr. Sayan Mukherjee who is an associate professor at Duke still lists some of the Dr. Potti’s retracted papers in his CV and on his Weblink (http://www.genome.duke.edu/directory/faculty/mukherjee/). Dr. Mukherjee was a Sloan Fellow at MIT from 2001 to 2004 as per his CV. I could not find his name on Sloan Foundation webpage or on MIT webpage. Could any one verify this? Also please have a look at the list of publications on Mr. Chaitanya R Acharya’s weblink (http://www.duke.edu/~ca31/CBB/PUBLICATIONS.html). Mr. Acharya is a graduate student who has lost many significant publications due to this episode. Dr. David S Hsu (http://www.genome.duke.edu/directory/faculty/hsu/) is also the same situation. Prof Nevins has listed some papers – I am not sure whether there are any which have already been retracted or under retraction. Any thoughts?

      1. People can “say” whatever they want, at least in America. Not the same in the UK for example. Somehow, that sounded like a threat.

      2. There’s nothing wrong with his comments; there’s no slander or libel or whatever even implied. He was merely making an observation given the facts available. Now, these CVs may not be updated, and the publication lists may not be either, but that’s a different story entirely.

  5. The Nature Medicine article was recently retracted

    Okaaaay, if a year ago can be described as “recently” I guess I was out of line with my complaint a few days ago that five months was too long between the time the institution requested a retraction and the time the journal published the notice of retraction. 🙂

  6. Thanks and sure, should be careful and not to legally implicate anything on this blog. I was just mentioning the facts. Because I found that he was a Sloan Fellow at MIT – not just a graduate/postdoctoral fellow – i was curious to find it on Sloan’s list…yes, just curious…curiosity drives our research!!

  7. “People can “say” whatever they want, at least in America. Not the same in the UK for example.”


    People can sue for whatever they want, especially in America. Not the same in the UK for example.

    Actually, people can’t say whatever they want. I can’t say Dr. X doesn’t have a degree or didn’t attend a university when they did. That’s defamation and could result in a lawsuit:


    “Somehow, that sounded like a threat.”

    That’s your (largely uninformed) opinion. What are you implying?

    1. One, I do think that senor Oransky can take care of himself, legally that is…
      Two, I don’t think asking pointed questions is going to get anyone in legal trouble…
      Three, libel and slander are complex legal issues. As non-lawyers, we should simply be sure that we are sure of our facts, and when we are not sure we should ask questions rather than making statements.
      Whether “implying” something is libelous, as opposed to coming out and saying it directly, I don’t know; I’ll leave that to the lawyers. But asking questions is our job, right, Ivan?

    2. I believe in the case of libel/slander on the InterNet, it is the origin of the person making the claim that matters, not the country in which the website is hosted. Thus wherever “Resci Integrity” lives, the local laws will apply. As regards the liability of the blog “host” (Ivan, Adam, or WordPress), read the usage terms very carefully – blog hosts are pretty much cleared of liability for anything their commenters say.

      1. Thanks for the discussion and questions about libel and slander. We take such issues very seriously here. While the usage terms may technically clear us of liability for anything commenters say, we actually hold comments to standards similar to those to which we hold our own posts. If there is a verifiable fact in a comment, for example, that would paint someone in a negative light, we ask for verification of that fact before approving the comment. Asking questions is generally fine, as is asking for help finding a link, as some have on this thread.

        This is probably as good an opportunity as any to say that we are incredibly impressed with the high level of discourse on Retraction Watch. We learn something from commenters every day. Some of it ends up in posts specifically, but all of it informs how we do what we do.

        So thanks.

  8. Why aren’t these people put on trial and when found guilty, thrown in jail (or deported if they are not US citizens)? They’ve committed a number of federal crimes not the least of which is a blatant misappropriation of taxpayer money. I am sickened by the fact that those who commit scientific misconduct are sheltered by the hallowed walls of academia. If an average Joe were to take hundreds of thousands of US government money (that was gotten under false pretenses) and lied about everything he did with it, he would be sent up the river!

    1. White collar crime is treated much more leniently than crime by the underclass. Fear of the defendant’s lawyers (and money) is one motivation. See also the disparity in sentencing between possession of flake cocaine (usually used by well to do people) and crack cocaine (usually used by poor people.)

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