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Here. This is the kind of thing you’ll get. What the fundraising letters can’t tell you:

Cheating in Research At Duke University

After his scientific dishonesty was discovered, Dr. Anil Potti  resigned his position in cancer researchat the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy and the School of Medicine at Duke University, but the repercussions go on. Just last month more patients filed suit, claiming that they had been exposed to “unnecessary and harmful chemotherapy after being enrolled in ‘fraudulent’ clinical trials.”

Dr. Potti revealed his alleged groundbreaking discovery that it would be possible to individually tailor cancer treatment by use of expression arrays in 2006. His work was partially funded by a $729,000 grant from the American Cancer Society. But, scientists at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston raised the alarm after they found itimpossible to replicate Dr. Potti’s work. Further investigation revealed that, not only had Dr. Potti made several fundamental errors in research and published papers, he also lied in grant applications and other documents. Finally, in 2010, the clinical trials having been discontinued, Dr. Potti resigned.

One may ask why it took so long. The article in theEconomist gives several possible reasons, none of them encouraging. First, significant research journals refused to publish papers critical of Dr. Potti’s work. The scientists who were challenging his work were forced to publish in a non-medical journal where few of the relevant researchers would ever see the article. Next, Duke University was slow to acknowledge or deal with significant financial conflicts of interest. Both Dr. Potti and two firms to whom the university had ties stood to benefit from his work. Not surprisingly, criticisms of Dr. Potti’s work were kept from the external review committee. Finally, peer review requires reviewers to put hours into the process, something that few scientists do. Even fewer attempt to replicate the work. The scientists who finally brought the misconduct to light estimate that they spent 10-50 weeks reviewing Dr. Potti’s papers!

As the reporter from the Economist notes, scientists are human too. However, AITSE believes that with more power comes more responsibility–and that the name of the institution should not matter. It is said that science is  self-correcting–and it is. But, who of us who has contributed to cancer research or had a relative suffer from cancer is willing to tolerate this type of fiasco? We need integrity in science.

(By all means, give to good research causes, especially in lieu of hundred-dollar flowers for somebody’s funeral. But we all need to recognize that grief can be exploited. And it ain’t pretty.)

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