Brodhead breaks silence, defends Duke's vetting of Potti. He contends there can be "intermediate explanation" between truth and lies.

✔ Fact Checker here.

Headline: Brodhead says vetting of Potti
worked just fine. No changes needed.

Well well well, guess who surfaced.

Richard The Absent sat down with the editorial board of the Herald-Sun, just shy of a full month from the day our campus was rocked by The Cancer Letter's revelations about the credentials of Dr. Anil Potti. Actually, Fact Checker understands Duke was tipped a few days before the July 13th publication date and Potti's suspension.

Picture this: Potti faked a Rhodes Scholarship. During the same period he should have been at Oxford (that's in England) for the Rhodes, he faked a fellowship at an Australian university that does not exist. He faked having a mentor, offering the name of a professor who says he had never heard of Potti at that point. He faked awards from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Lymphoma Research Foundation and The American Society of Hematology. And he offered three different dates for his MD degree. That's what's confirmed so far.

All that was atop repeated assertion over several years that his science did not hold water; not assertion, wrong word, but pleas from some of the world's leading genome researchers that patients in trials run by Potti and Dr. Joseph Nevins were being subjected to treatment for lung and breast cancer based upon bad science.

Brodhead quoted in Wednesday's Herald Sun:

"The university will in general continue to accept credentials on their face as presented by the people who present them... Everyone who comes to us, especially in a faculty position, has had their value cross-tested by any number of people along the way."

There is no reason for additional safeguards, the Duke president asserted. "We're not going to start running background checks and police checks on everybody," he said. "You can't reasonably do that, nor is there a need to."

Right, Dick, everything's working out just fine. Cross-tested along the way.

✔The next line from Brodhead was the killer. If he had said this when a dizzy prostitute and a dishonest prosecutor enmeshed our lacrosse team in fake sex charges, he'd probably have saved himself a lot of trouble: "every allegation is not a truth."

"We want, therefore, is for people to back off until they can learn whether the allegation was true or whether the allegation was false or if there is some intermediate explanation..."

Back off!! The same thing he told the pot bangers? The same thing he told the people marching with the "Castrate" sign!!

And between true and false, there is an "intermediate explanation." This is an English professor speaking, not a leader who should be sending an unequivocal message to this campus, and to the 1700 new freshmen arriving in a few days.

"Intermediate explanation!!" Now that's original.

Potti either had a Rhodes or not. He either had a mentor or not. What can an "intermediate explanation" between truth or lie possibly be.

My fellow Dukies, it is time to rewrite the Community Standard honor code: you have truth, lies, and a pod where you can perch in-between? Plagarism, or the "intermediate explanation" that the cursor slipped!!

✔No doubt Duke is taking so long with its internal investigation into Potti's credentials because it wants to provide him with adequate time to prove himself innocent. Another possibility: he may have tenure, which these days is all too often claimed by rascal professors hiding behind academic freedom to avoid being canned.

In case you are wondering, Mr. President, the confirmation of Potti's lies comes from some pretty good sources: the Rhodes Trust, for example, which runs the scholarships, said he never had one. That alone is cause for dismissal. I repeat. That alone.

✔And a final quote: "We've tried to be as open and even-handed in establishing (the internal and external reviews) as we can."

Well Mr. President, let's talk about using two Vice Deans in the Medical School as key people in your even-handed investigations.

The Dean of Duke Med School is Nancy Andrews. Her husband, Bernard Mathey-Prevot, Ph.D.is one of the collaborators with Potti and Dr. Joseph Nevins (whose science is also under investigation) in writing at least one article in a major medical journal.

There can be little doubt the Potti scandal will metathesize to embrace this work. There's no doubt two people who were promoted to their current jobs by Andrews, two people who still report to her, should not hold high responsibility in the probe of her husband.

Were you "open" about that?

Yes, Mr. President, Fact Checker has seen your transparency!! Time and time again. It is one of your signatures. Also seen the people in your administration endorse the principle of accountability.

✔If all this weren't enough, Brodhead tries to squirm from responsibility for Potti. He wants to turn the external revue away from Duke's lying associate professor, hoping it "produces some national understanding of what the statistical methods are, that would be a good result.... That would be valuable."

Mr. Brodhead, research into the mysteries of DNA and RNA, and trying to apply this knowledge in the hidden corners of disease, is a lot more complicated than reading and re-reading Milton and a dozen Ph.D. dissertations all taking to each other. But it is rather self-serving for you to attribute the lies of Potti to alleged confusion -- which has recently surfaced in Chancellor Dzau's remarks and now in yours -- about standards for the emerging field of translational medicine.

Maybe we do need tighter standards. But let's quit occluding the work before this university and focus first on getting the cancer of Potti excised from our body.

✔Some final observations about our leader: the Herald-Sun article does not address patients in the Potti-Nevins trials (trials, nice word for experiments) at all, and we therefore do not know if Brodhead mentioned them or not.

They have received scant attention: while Duke did suspend (for the second time) Potti and Nevins from enrolling new patients in their studies, this morning 107 or 109 people continue to be treated for lung and breast cancer according to their designs. That's pretty damn scary.

Has Duke reached out to them? Told them the facts? Offered them alternative therapies reviewed by independent doctors? Or are your lawyers saying "don't do that, it's giving up the proof needed in the malpractice cases that are sure to come."

Beyond the 107 or 109, Fact Checker is trying to find out how many candidates were subjected to painful and dangerous procedures, to donate tissue to see if they were suitable for the "studies."

How many gave informed consent to join these experiments -- because they were deceived.

✔Mr. Brodhead, when you sit down with Fact Checker, which is not anticipated soon, here's the first question. Not the sort of thing the good people at the Herald-Sun are likely to slam at you.

I want your reaction to a quote from Paul Goldberg '81, meticulous editor of the Cancer Letter:

"When questions about Potti’s science emerged in scientific literature and in alarms sounded by internal critics, the Duke administration formed a protective barrier around the man they considered their star, forming committees that operated in secret, and then incorrectly portraying the findings of one of these committees as validation of Potti’s science."

That's not Fact Checker speaking. That's the editor of Cancer Letter.

✔Now... some other aspects of the Potti mess.

I love the power of the internet. Loyal Readers will recall my discussion of the analogous years-long probe into the science of Homme Hellinga, James B. Duke professor of biochemistry. I asked the Dean of the Medical School Nancy Andrews about reports she had thrown a graduate student out of a public forum on biochemistry department issues for bringing up Hellinga. I also asked Associate Dean Wesley Byerly about an e-mail telling the biochemistry faculty to shut the hell up; this was immediately after a well sourced Chronicle update on Hellinga last spring.

Duke PR replied: there will be no comment on the investigation, you should understand that.

What an attempt to obfuscate! No one asked Andrews to comment at all on Hellinga. I want her version of what SHE did in a public meeting.

Actually within four hours after I posted, Loyal Readers filled my mailbox with details, including the name and current contact information for the graduate student who was tossed. Following up, be patient.

As for the Biochemistry e-mail, within six hours after I posted, a Loyal Reader put a copy in my hands. The warning on the e-mail be damned, that it contained "legally privileged and/or confidential information intended solely for the use of the addressee." You'll see the text very soon.

✔Duke does have a deadline in the internal investigation of Potti. He's suspended, and federal regulations provide he must be back at work in three months, or bye bye grants.

Actually, a Loyal Reader tracking Potti grants has been unable to find one. 1R01CA136530 which should be valid through 2011. Hmmm, did this get terminated or did Duke succeed in having it moved from Potti to another researcher?

As for a deadline, another weasel word emerged this morning. Loyal Readers will recall Dzau and Vice Dean Cuffe saying the credentials investigation was almost wrapped up. From Cuffe's comments, I calculated a deadline of July 30. Today the Duke PR Man Stokke said there is no "defined timetable" for the investigation.

✔Finally, I mentioned that when I am impelled to write bad news, that I wished there were a way to put a black border on my signature ✔. A Loyal Reader responded within hours, instructing me about Wing Dings. I've been busy but it watch for it soon.

✔✔Thanks for reading and for loving Duke.

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