Last year, Duke oncologist Anil Potti admitted to having posed as a Rhodes Scholar and fabricating statistical analyses on how breast cancer responds to chemotherapy. Now, participants of clinical trials based partly on his research and families of participants who have died are suing the university and some Duke employees for "fraudulent and negligent behavior" for enrolling cancer patients in the trials, ScienceInsider reports.
The plaintiffs accuse Duke officials of knowing that Potti's work, as well as the research of cancer geneticist Joseph Nevins, former director of Duke's Center for Applied Genomics & Technology, was problematic when they began initiating the trials. According to the lawsuit, "In May 2007, after being placed on notice of the flawed science underlying its cancer studies as referenced above, Duke University and/or DUHS [Duke University Health System] nevertheless began their first clinical trial," which aimed to test lung cancer treatments based on Potti's and Nevins's research on tumor cell gene expression patterns. Much of Potti's and Nevins's research has since been discredited and retracted.
Duke's response "to the accusation of invalid and fraudulent science was deceptive, misleading, and fraudulent conduct designed to protect its reputation and proprietary interests," the lawsuit states. "[This] reduced the Plaintiffs' likelihood of surviving his/her cancer or the likelihood of experiencing a positive response to the chemotherapy regimen."