Duke scientist requests retraction of cancer research work

Staff writerOctober 29, 2010 

One of the Duke scientists who collaborated with Dr. Anil Potti on cancer research has requested a retraction of the work in a major scientific journal - a significant blow to both Duke and its lab.

Joseph Nevins, a professor and director of Duke's Center for Applied Genomics and Technology, sent a letter to the editors of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a leading publisher of scientific findings in cancer research, calling for a full retraction of work he and Potti submitted in 2007.

Efforts to reach the journal editors are underway.

The work, which claims to establish a genetic basis for predicting which cancer patients will respond best to different treatments, has been questioned for at least a year, when scientists elsewhere tried to reproduce it and could not. In addition, the other scientists found numerous errors, requiring published corrections.

The problems have raised concerns about clinical trials at Duke that were based on the research. About 100 area patients were enrolled in three studies, which Duke halted briefly last year amid allegations that the science behind them was faulty. They resumed the trials after a review of the work, but stopped them again this fall as the controversy escalated.

Duke officials have said those patients are not in harms way, because they were given standard treatments.

Potti has been on paid leave since last summer when allegations arose he padded his resume and published shoddy science. Duke officials this fall confirmed that Potti had embellished his credentials, falsely claiming to have been a prestigious Rhodes Scholar.

Duke officials said an investigation into his scientific work continues; he remains on staff.

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