Duke Scientist Under Investigation Resigns

A Duke University oncologist who had been the focus of a misconduct investigation has resigned from the university. Anil Potti had published papers in prominent journals identifying gene signatures in tumors that could predict how a patient would respond to treatment. But his work came under scrutiny after two biostatisticians at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, spent years trying and failing to replicate it. The case broke wide open this summer when The Cancer Letter discovered that Potti had falsely claimed to have won a Rhodes scholarship. Duke placed Potti on administrative leave soon after.

Separately, the Journal of Clinical Oncology yesterday retracted one of the papers in question, by Potti and co-author Joseph Nevins, a cancer geneticist. “The authors wish to retract this article because they have been unable to reproduce the experiments,” the notice read. Duke said today that it has “initiated a process” to request retraction of another paper by Potti, which appeared in Nature Medicine.

The Duke case has also brought scrutiny to efforts to use tumor gene patterns to predict prognosis or response to treatment. Duke opened clinical trials that relied on Potti’s work even as others were expressing concerns about their accuracy. Those trials have since been halted, but the Institute of Medicine is setting up a panel to study clinical use of these gene signatures. That’s still in the works.