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Duke Scientist's Cancer Research is Questioned

Mon, 07/26/2010 - 7:45am
MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Medical Writer

Concerns are being raised about the validity of research done by a Duke University cancer scientist who recently was placed on leave while the school investigates whether he falsely claimed to be a Rhodes scholar.

The editor of a British journal, Lancet Oncology, issued an "expression of concern" Friday, citing a December 2007 study it published from Dr. Anil Potti and others. The study described gene patterns that might help predict a breast cancer patient's response to chemotherapy.

The journal said two of Potti's co-authors had contacted them this week on behalf of 15 European scientists involved in the study with "grave concerns about the validity of their report."

Statisticians at the University of Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Center had questioned methods used in the study, the co-authors wrote. The co-authors' repeated attempts to reach Potti and other researchers at Duke had been ignored, they claimed.

"A large group of scientists" also wrote to National Cancer Institute Director Harold Varmus, expressing concern about the validity of methods involved, and asked that three ongoing clinical trials be suspended until an independent review can be done, the statement from the medical journal says.

Potti could not be reached via e-mail for comment, and a home telephone number could not be found. Duke officials did not reply to e-mails or phone calls requesting comment.

A Duke spokesman previously told The News & Observer of Raleigh that the university was looking into whether Potti falsely claimed on a federal grant application that he had won a Rhodes scholarship for study at Oxford University. The American Cancer Society suspended payments to a large grant to Potti while the probe continues.

Potti and others also published a study in August 2006 in the New England Journal of Medicine on a gene profiling test that might help reveal which lung cancer patients most need chemotherapy. However, a spokeswoman at that journal said that no one has questioned the validity of that study.

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