Eight years after questions were first raised about the work of Duke University cancer researcher Anil Potti, federal officials have found Potti guilty of research misconduct. The findings bring to a close one of the most egregious U.S. scientific misconduct cases in recent years.
In 2006 Potti’s team published several papers in high-profile journals reporting that certain gene expression signatures predicted a patient’s response to chemotherapy. Two outside biostatisticians soon raised concerns about the studies. In 2010, Duke put Potti on administrative leave and suspended three clinical trials based on his work after The Cancer Letter, a newsletter in Washington, D.C., reported that Potti had padded his resume. Potti resigned a few months later.
Many of Potti’s papers were later retracted, and Duke faced a lawsuit filed by patients in the clinical trials. His troubles also led to an Institute of Medicine report that faulted Duke’s oversight and found broad problems in the cancer field with using gene signatures and other biomarkers to guide treatment.
Today, as first reported by the blog Retraction Watch, the federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI) released findings against Potti. Based on Duke’s investigation and ORI’s review, officials concluded that Potti had included false research data in a grant application, a submitted manuscript, and nine research papers. Among other problems, Potti altered data sets to make drug response predictors look more accurate. As part of a voluntary settlement, Potti “neither admits nor denies ORI's findings of research misconduct.” If he seeks federal funding again, his research must be supervised for 5 years.
According to Retraction Watch, Duke Medicine released a statement saying: “We are pleased with the finding of research misconduct. …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.” The blog notes that as of 3 years ago, Potti was working as an oncologist in North Dakota.