Thursday, 13 September 2018

Top Sloan Kettering Cancer Doctor

Doctor Resigns

Top Sloan Kettering Cancer Doctor Resigns After Failing to Disclose Industry Ties

This article was reported and written during a collaboration with ProPublica, the nonprofit
investigative journalism organization.

Dr. José Baselga, the chief medic of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center,
resigned on Thursday amid reports that he had did not disclose many dollars in
payments from health care companies in dozens of research articles.

The revelations about Dr. Baselga’s disclosure lapses, reported by The NY Times
and ProPublica last weekend, have rocked Memorial Sloan Kettering, one among the nation’s
leading cancer centers, in recent days. Its top executives scrambled to contain the fallout,
including urgent meetings of physician leaders and therefore the executive committee of its board
of directors.

In his resignation letter released Thursday, Dr. Baselga, who also served because of the physician in-
the chief said he feared that the matter would be a distraction from his role overseeing clinical care which he had been “extremely proud” to figure at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

“It is my hope that this example will inspire a doubling down on transparency in our field,” he said, adding that he hoped the medical profession would work together to develop a more standardized system for reporting industry ties.

In an email sent to the staff Thursday evening, Dr. Craig B. Thompson, the hospital’s chief the executive said that Dr. Baselga had made “numerous” contributions to Memorial Sloan Kettering, patients, and cancer treatment. Dr. Lisa DeAngelis, the chairwoman of the neurology department will take over as acting physician-in-chief until Dr. Baselga’s successor is hired.

The resignation was effective immediately, and he will haven't any continuing role at the cancer center, although he will stay for 2 weeks to ease the transition, said Christine Hickey, a spokeswoman for the cancer center.

Dr. Thompson echoed comments he made to the hospital staff on Sunday, saying that the cancer center had “robust programs” in situ to manage employees’ relationships with outside companies, but that “we will remain diligent.” He added, “There are going to be continued discussion and review of those matters within the coming weeks.”

Dr. Baselga, a prominent figure within the world of cancer research omitted his financial ties to companies just like the Swiss drugmaker Roche and a number of other small biotech start-ups in
prestigious medical publications just like the New England Journal of drugs and therefore the 1 page, 0.26 MB Lancet. He also did not disclose any company affiliations in articles he published within the
journal Cancer Discovery, that he is one among two editors in chief.

All told, ProPublica and therefore the Times found that Dr. Baselga had did not report any
industry ties in 60 percent of the nearly 180 papers he had published since 2013.

That figure increased annually — he didn't disclose any relationships in 87 percent of the
journal articles that he co-wrote last year.

In an interview and later statement, Dr. Baselga said he planned to correct his conflict-of-interest
disclosures in 17 journal articles, including within the New England Journal and therefore the Lancet. But he contended that in dozens of other cases, no disclosure was required because the topics of the articles had little financial implication. He also said his failed disclosures were unintentional and will not reflect on the worth of the research he conducted.

Dr. Baselga and Memorial Sloan Kettering said that he had disclosed his industry relationships to the cancer center.

Those journals, also as professional societies just like the American Society of Clinical Oncology and therefore the American Association for Cancer The research said they were conducting reviews of Dr. Baselga’s disclosure practices after inquiries from the days and ProPublica. Dr. Baselga was president of the A.A.C.R. in 2015 and 2016 and appears to have violated disclosure rules for reporting conflicts of interest during that period.

In his statement Thursday, Dr. Baselga said that he took full responsibility for his disclosures which he had already submitted updates to medical journals “and will still do so until the record is complete.”
A spokeswoman for The New England Journal, Jennifer Zeis, said in an email Thursday that Dr. Baselga had submitted changes to his disclosures but that editors had questions for him before the articles might be corrected. A spokeswoman for the A.A.C.R. said that the organization was continuing to review Dr. Baselga’s disclosures.

Dr. Baselga, 59, is an expert in carcinoma research and played a key role within the development of Herceptin, which was developed by Genentech, a subsidiary of Roche.

He came to Memorial Sloan Kettering in 2013 after serving as chief of hematology and
oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Before that he was a pacesetter at
the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain.

Medical journals and professional societies have imposed stricter rules about reporting relationships to industry after a series of scandals a decade ago during which prominent physicians did not disclose payments from drug companies. But medical journals have said they don’t routinely fact-check authors’ disclosures, and far is left to the respect system.

Ethicists say that outside relationships with companies can shape the way studies are designed and medications are prescribed to patients, allowing bias to influence medical practice. Reporting those ties allows the general public, other scientists and doctors to gauge the research and weigh potential conflicts.

Jeffrey S. Flier, who was dean of the Harvard school of medicine from 2007 to 2016, said medical leaders should be held to a better standard.

“The higher you're within the organizational structure, the more important it's that you simply fulfill those obligations,” he said. “You’re not just another faculty, you’re also a school to whom people search and your reputation is tied to the institution’s reputation.” That said, he added, relationships between academic faculty members and therefore the health care industry are essential to developing new drugs.

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