Following five years of scrutiny, more than ten retractions, multiple settled lawsuits, and medical board reprimands, we may finally have some resolution on the case of Anil Potti, the once-rising cancer research star who resigned from Duke in 2010.
While there have been numerous allegations of misconduct in Potti’s work, and strong comments to that effect by Potti’s former mentor, Joseph Nevins, there has been no official finding. Today, that changes. Potti “engaged in research misconduct,” the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) concludes in a report to be published in the Federal Register on Monday.
Potti — referred to as “respondent” in the report — included “false research data” in reports of research from six different NIH grants, according to the ORI:
- Respondent stated in grant application 1 R01 CA136530-01A1 that 6 out of 33 patients responded positively to dasatinib when only 4 patients were enrolled and none responded and that the 4 CT scans presented in Figure 14 were from the lung cancer study when they were not.
- Respondent altered data sets to improve the accuracy of predictors for response to treatments in a submitted paper and in the research record by:
- Reversing the responder status of 24 out of 133 subjects for the adriamycin predictor in a manuscript submitted to Clinical Cancer Research
- switching the cancer recurrence phenotype for 46 out of 89 samples to validate the LMS predictor in a file provided to a colleague in 2008
- changing IC-50 and R-code values for the cisplatin predictor in a data set provided to NCI in 2010
He also “reported predictors and/or their validation by disregarding accepted scientific methodology so that false data were reported” in nine now-retracted papers, the ORI writes.
Potti, who hasn’t engaged in NIH-funded research since 2010 and says he has no intention to apply for more, “neither admits nor denies ORI’s findings of research misconduct,” according to the report, which notes that
…the settlement is not an admission of liability on the part of the Respondent. The parties entered into the Agreement to conclude this matter without further expenditure of time, finances, or other resources.
If he does ever apply for or receive such funding again, Potti agrees to have his research supervised for five years, beginning September 23, 2015. He also can’t serve on peer review committees for that period of time.
Last we know, Potti was practicing oncology in Grand Forks, North Dakota. His work came under scientific scrutiny beginning in 2007, but it was the discovery by The Cancer Letter in 2010 that he had claimed to be a Rhodes Scholar on a grant application that focused intense attention on his research. Eventually, three trials based on his work were halted, and Duke reimbursed the American Cancer Society for the partial payment of a $729,000 grant that Potti had begun to receive.
Update, 1:45 p.m. Eastern, 11/8/15: In a statement, Doug Stokke, vice president of marketing and communications for Duke Medicine, tells us:
We are pleased with the finding of research misconduct by the federal Office of Research Integrity related to work done by Dr. Anil Potti. We trust this will serve to fully absolve the clinicians and researchers who were unwittingly associated with his actions, and bring closure to others who were affected.
Note to readers: We preempted Weekend Reads, which normally appears on Saturday mornings, to report this news, which we learned about this morning. Weekend Reads will appear tomorrow (Sunday).
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