Oncologist Falsified Data on Research Once Described as "Holy Grail" of Cancer Treatment

Tuesday, December 1, 2015
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Back in 2006, Anil Potti, a cancer researcher at Duke University, claimed to identify genetic markers that would allow customized treatment for cancer patients based on the types of tumors they had. Several reports from Potti and his team claimed it could predict a patient's response to chemotherapy with up to 90 percent accuracy. His research captured worldwide attention until other scientists couldn't replicate or even come close to Potti's results.

The Holy Grail or The Holy Fail?

Potti's case of research misconduct has been deemed one of the worst cases of fraud in university research. His research seemed like a miracle and those that believed called it "the holy grail of cancer." Unfortunately, it proved too good to be true. Recently, the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), the agency that investigates fraud in federally-funded medical research, has officially declared that the findings of Potti were not only flawed, but completely false.

Research Fraud.

According to the ORI's reports, Potti "engaged in research misconduct" in nine different journals, which have since been retracted. False data was submitted to obtain grants to continue research and Potti claimed that 6 of 33 patients responded favorably to a test when only 4 patients were enrolled in the trial, none of which responded positively. He is also accused of exaggerating his credentials to gain more grant money for research.

The Repercussions of Research Misconduct.

In 2010, Duke University placed Potti on administrative leave and he later resigned. According to the ORI, he voluntarily entered into a settlement in which he neither admitted nor denied the findings of research misconduct. Now, any research Potti conducts using federal funds must be supervised for five years. Additionally under the terms of the settlement, any institution employing him in federally-funded research must prove that his findings are "based on actual experiments or are otherwise legitimately derived." To read about a similar case of research misconduct, click here to read one of my past blogs.

How Does Research Misconduct Affect You?

Scientists and health care professionals who commit research misconduct not only jeopardize key research trials, but also directly waste millions of tax dollars on fraudulent studies. Worse still, they can divert needed funds and research efforts away from valid cures. Allegations of research misconduct can throw academic researchers into a tangled web of institutional and legal challenges.  University policies, federal regulations and legal concerns overlap in ways that may become quite frustrating for a health care practitioner and researcher devoted to clinical care.

Research misconduct is incredibly disappointing when promising findings may be forever tainted. Professional careers of assistant researchers may also be cut short due to the regrettable actions of a single individual. Click here to read one of our past blog's on research misconduct and compliance.

The Scientific Method Proves Out!

I may not be a scientist, but (unlike some congressmen and politicians) I am smart enough to remember eighth grade science class.

That's the problem with science. If it's real, others can duplicate the findings. If others can't duplicate the findings, then it's just a bunch of hogwash. What allows medicine to progress is the scientific method and research findings that others can verify and, perhaps, improve upon.

Anyone active in scientific investigational studies should know, if you fudge the results, you will eventually be found out. It's just a matter of time.


Would you be prepared for inquiries and investigations into your research? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representation for Clinical Research Fraud and Misconduct.

In order to combat such destructive accusations and avoid major punishments, it is critical to have a legal representative present on your behalf in an effective manner that does not compromise a legal defense. The Health Law Firm attorneys, through years of experience, have obtained the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate research misconduct cases. An accusation of research misconduct, even if later proven to be incorrect, may unfairly tarnish your professional reputation. Legal guidance and experienced insight are invaluable when it comes to protecting the time and efforts you have put forth in building a sustainable and impacting career.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Barbash, Fred. "Scientist falsified data for cancer research once described as holy grail, feds say." The Washington Post. 9 Nov. 2015. Web.

"Cancer researcher now in ND generated false, altered data, federal agency says." Inforum News.  21 Nov. 2015. Web.

"The 10 greatest cases of fraud in university research." Online Universities. 27 Feb. 2012. Web.

About the Author:
George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

research misconduct defense attorney, professional misconduct, falsifying data, manipulating data, retracted over data, clinical investigation defense lawyer, clinical trials, clinical research defense lawyer, Office of Research Integrity (ORI), scientific fraud, false research, federally-funded medical research, health care lawyer, health law firm, The Health Law Firm

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