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Disgraced cancer researcher with ties to UND subject of '60 Minutes' report

Photo credit: Duke Photography

FARGO - A cancer researcher with ties to the University of North Dakota School of Medicine was the subject of a CBS "60 Minutes" report called "Deception at Duke."

Dr. Anil Potti has resigned from Duke University and faces an investigation for scientific misconduct following conclusions that he "manipulated data" involving what once appeared to be breakthrough cancer research, according to the CBS report, which aired Sunday.

At Duke, Potti was regarded by colleagues as a rising star with a reputation for modesty and diligence. He was born in India and received a college degree in his native country in 1995.

His specialty was developing personalized treatments for patients with lung cancer.

"Very bright, very smart individual, very capable," Dr. Joseph Nevins, who directed a lab at Duke and chose Potti as a protégé, told "60 Minutes." "He was a very close colleague to many, many people."

Other cancer researchers, including some at the National Cancer Institute, spotted problems with Potti's research data. Acting on those suspicions, Nevins investigated and concluded that problems with Potti's data were not the result of error, but of deliberate fabrication, according to the report by Scott Pelley.

According to his biography, Potti received training in internal medicine at UND's Fargo campus. He then served as an assistant professor at UND for three years before receiving a research fellowship at Duke starting in 2003.

In 2000, while at UND, Potti received a $72,500 research grant from Dakota Medical Foundation to help him hunt for a gene implicated in aggressive breast cancers that spread to other parts of the body.

For that one-year project, he planned to recruit 600 cancer patients from Fargo-Moorhead, Grand Forks and Bismarck.

In 2003, before leaving for Duke, Potti and a fellow researcher at UND were recipients of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation's Humanism in Medicine Award at UND.

The award is given to recognize compassion and sensitivity in the delivery of care to patients and their families.

Duke suspended Potti's research trials. Nine patients have filed suit. Potti, now working as a cancer doctor in South Carolina, told CBS he was "not aware that false or 'improper' information had been included" in his research.

A UND spokesman was not immediately available for comment Sunday night.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522