Dr. Anil Potti, a Duke University cancer researcher, resigned from his job at the university in late 2010, after questions were raised about his studies on personalized cancer treatments. A new CBS "60 Minutes" piece, which aired last night, explores whether Potti's work wasn't just wrong, but actual fraud.
Before Potti resigned, he was placed on administrative leave after it was discovered that he had exaggerated his credentials by saying he was a Rhodes scholar, the New York Times reported. The discovery of this deception led to the American Cancer Society suspending hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money meant to fund his work.
Nine of Potti's papers have been retracted from medical journals thus far, Duke University's The Chronicle reported. The most recent was retracted this month, published in 2007 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, which looked at platinum-based therapy for ovarian cancer.
Potti's work in individualized treatments for cancer was regarded as "the holy grail of cancer," Dr. Rob Califf, the vice chancellor of clinical research at Duke, said on 60 Minutes. Personalized cancer treatments, if they work, could be a last hope for people whose bodies don't respond to the conventional treatments.
Patients enrolled in trials for these drugs, and were told that they had an 80 percent chance the right drug for them would be found, 60 Minutes reported.
However, outside researchers who reviewed Potti's study data found troubling errors.
"It became clear that there was no explanation other than there was a manipulation," Dr. Joseph Nevins, who worked with Potti in the Nevins Lab at Duke, said on 60 Minutes. " A manipulation of the data, a manipulation of somebody's credentials and a manipulation of a lot of people's trust."
WRAL reported that some of those patients who were involved in the trials have filed suit against Duke and the researchers involved.
WRAL reported last year:
The group is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the case, alleging that Duke tried to cover up questions about the research and performed unnecessary chemotherapy on people in hopes of patenting and spinning off a cancer-screening test.
Potti declined to comment on the investigation to 60 Minutes, but he told them in an email that ""My primary concern at all times is and will be the care of patients and seeking new ways to treat cancer."
For the full story, check out the video above and be sure to watch the full segment over at CBS.