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The Story of Medical Student Bradford Perez and Anil Potti.


In 2008, third year medical student Bradford Perez wrote a letter to his dean complaining of the statistical problems with the methods used by researcher Anil Potti (who recently was sanctioned by the ORI, has left research, and is now practicing in North Dakota.)

The letter was essentially ignored, and no substantial investigation occurred until a number of professional statisticians complained about the essentially fraudulent statistical methods used by Dr. Potti.  These methods were used to select what were advertised as “personalized” cancer treatments based on genomic analysis of the individual tumors.  These treatments were no more useful, and in some cases less useful, than randomly selected treatments, but many patients went through this clinical “research” and received treatment at his hands.

The letter Bradford Perez wrote is here.

The Perez letter was on top of concerns expressed by biostatisticians Baggerly and Coombes at MD Anderson in November 2006 in correspondence with Potti’s lab that continued for some time without result.  Their concerns were dismissed by a superficial investigation that didn’t look at the data or any of the methods; this external review wasn’t completed until December 2009.  In November 2007, Coombes et al published their concerns along with a rebuttal from Potti in Nature Medicine.

Anil Potti started a research fellowship under Joseph Nevins in 2004, in a lab established by Nevins in 2000.  Potti started his own independent laboratory in 2006.  The cancer trials he was involved in suspended new patient enrollment in November 2009.  They were restarted in January 2010.  In June 2010, NCI concluded that it was not satisfied with the data analysis and asked Potti’s lab to retrieve all data and computer programs from their lab for review.

Anil Potti was placed on administrative leave in July 2010 when it was uncovered that he had falsely claimed he had had a scholarship in England.

In October 2010, Duke officials informed NCI that they had found numerous flaws in Potti’s datasets and that his 2007 paper would have to be retracted.

In November 2010, Potti resigned from Duke and went to work as an oncologist in North Carolina.  He left that position in 2011 after receiving a reprimand from the Medical Board of North Carolina for his research behavior at Duke and is now reported working in North Dakota, where he did his original residency in internal medicine after graduating from a medical school in India.

A timeline of the Potti scandal is here.

It didn’t take long, only several years, for Duke to respond to Perez’ letter.  As for Perez himself, he resigned from the Potti lab, had his name taken off several research papers, and took another year of research study at a different lab so that he could get into a residency in radiological oncology.

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