DukeCheck.com has learned that a distinguished professor at the University of Michigan has come forward and revealed he warned Duke University about the research of Dr. Anil Potti as early as August, 2006.
The date is crucial: it is months earlier than the alarm sounded by Drs. Keith Baggerly and Kevin Coombes of the M D Anderson Comprehensive Center at the University of Texas in Houston, who up until now were thought to be the first to step forward with a challenge to Potti’s research.
While we believe the Michigan professor took no further action after writing Duke, Bagggerly and Coombes launched a public campaign after Duke ignored them, first with a letter to Nature Medicine, the journal that had published a key research paper from Potti and his mentor, Dr. Joseph Nevins.
The Michigan professor not only said Potti’s research was highly suspect; he said that Potti had ripped off his work and used it as the building blocks for his. If sustained, the plagiarism charge would be yet another black mark on Potti’s record.
The warning from Michigan is ominous because it means Duke was ignoring an accumulating suspicion in the scientific and medical community — a deliberate act that will resonate in the malpractice lawsuits by cancer patients that Potti exposed to clinical trials, which are experiments on human beings. Duke has now conceded the trials should not have been allowed in its hospital.
Duke took no firm action against Potti until July 15, 2010, when The Cancer Letter revealed Potti’s resume claimed a Rhodes Scholarship that he did not get, and other serious lies. Yes, just one month short of four full years after getting warned about Potti’s medicine and science.
There is another bombshell: DukeCheck has obtained from an expert working on matters related to Potti an informed estimate of what Potti’s research might have been worth had it been valid and led to development of a copywritten or patented genome test that would have identified precisely which drugs would work best in each patient:
Royalties of $2 billion a year. BILLION.
The jackpot would have been shared by Potti, his mentor Dr. Joseph Nevins, and Duke University.
At present, cancer doctors can only guess how each unique individual and each unique cancer might respond to chemotherapy, using a spectrum of drug cocktails in different doses. These powerful chemicals have devastating side effects; and while doctors are trying to identify which might work best, precious time is being lost.
The $2 billion is far more than previously thought. DukeCheck had reported that in the United States alone, an estimated 600,000 cancer patients might have taken the test every year — with a price tag that was estimated at $1,000, which works out to $600 million.
The dollars are important — because they show that Duke had a potential conflict of interest in trying to sustain Potti’s science. Ultimately, as his career collapsed, Duke disposed of its interest in a company set up by Nevins and Potti to market the genome test; we were never able to find out who acquired the interest and on what terms.
Before we return to the Michigan professor, there is a third development. For the first time we can present a list of hospitals and doctors offices that were used as feeders to channel patients to Potti at Duke for clinical trials.
On the list: the Coastal Cancer Center in South Carolina, the group practice that hired Potti after he was suspended by Duke and after he quit the faculty in disgrace. As Loyal Readers know, a “60 Minutes” review of Potti’s misconduct led Coastal Cancer Center to sever its ties with Potti.
Here are the other institutions on the list:
Palm Beach Cancer Institute, West Palm Beach, Florida
University of Chicago Medical Center, Chicago
Presbyterian HealthCare, Charlotte
Maria Parham Hospital, Henderson, NC
Scotland Memorial Hospital, Laurinburg, NC
Gibson Cancer Center, Lumberton, NC
Duke Raleigh Hospital, Raleigh
Johnston Memorial Hospital, Smithfield NC
Columbia County Hospital, Whiteville NC
Beaufort Memorial Hospital, Beaufort, SC
Community Memorial Health Center, South Hill, VA
The Michigan professsor is a Ph.D., not an MD. He is Dr. David George Beer, a researcher with the rank of full professor in the Department of Surgery and Department of Radiation Oncology, who thus focuses on two of the three prime therapies to fight cancer. (The other is chemotherapy)
Beers work is — like some of Potti’s — supported by substantial grants from the National Institute of Health. His focus is “human esophageal cancer. DNA from esophageal cancers is being examined to identify potentially novel regions of DNA which are either amplified or lost. A large number of interesting amplified and/or lost DNA sequences in both esophageal and lung adenocarcinomas have been identified.”
Beer received a BS in biology from Northeastern Illinois University in 1975. He went on to get a Ph.D. in biochemical pharmacology at the University of Colorado. He did post-doc training in molecular oncology at the University of Wisconsin.
His first position was as an assistant professor at the University of Kansas. He was recruited to the University of Michigan’s medical school in Ann Arbor 21 years ago.
Among Beer’s responsibilities, he is Co-Director of the Cancer Genetics Program for the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
He has authored more than 150 published articles. Some of his research dovetails with Potti’s — using genome science to study lung cancer.
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