Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Cancer Center’s Board Chairman Faults

Cancer Center’s Board Chairman

Cancer Center’s Board Chairman Faults Top Doctor Over ‘Crossed Lines’

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

The chairman of the board of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center bluntly disparaged the hospital’s former chief medic on Monday, telling the hospital’s the staff that the medical chief had “crossed lines” and had gone “off the reservation” in his outside dealings with health and drug companies.

The remarks by Douglas A. Warner III, the chairman of the center’s board of managers and overseers, as well as Dr. Craig B. Thompson, the chief executive went beyond previous hospital statements about the previous chief medic , Dr. José Baselga.

Until Monday, the hospital had said Dr. Baselga followed internal policies and had mainly just did not disclose his industry affiliations in some medical journal articles.

“I need to say, while we pushed back on tons and discussed tons, we weren't as effective as we should have been,” Mr. Warner said, consistent with a preliminary transcript of a meeting with the hospital’s staff that was inadvertently emailed by the hospital to a the reporter for The New York Times.

“He crossed lines that we should always have done more to stop.”

Dr. Baselga did not respond to phone calls or an email the message requesting comment.

Monday’s meeting between hospital executives and employees was the newest during a series held by the cancer center because it conducts a broad review of policies regarding the nonprofit institution’s ties to outside industries.

Memorial Sloan Kettering has been forced to re-examine its rules board memberships and compensation within the wake of articles by the days and ProPublica that exposed insider deals with start-ups that were poised to reap millions of dollars for breakthroughs in cancer treatments and biotechnology advances.

The hospital’s senior executives have come under scrutiny in recent weeks, leading Mr. Warner to question on Monday whether Dr. Thompson would be permitted to continue sitting on the board of Merck, which makes the blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda.

In addition to his position with Merck, Dr. Thompson is also a director of Charles River Laboratories, a publicly-traded company that assists research in early drug development.

Dr. Thompson received $300,000 in compensation from Merck in 2017, consistent with company financial filings.

He was paid $70,000 in cash from Charles in 2017, plus $215,050 in stock.

The compensation for the two corporate boards was in addition to what he was paid as chief executive at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

In 2016, he earned $6.7 million in total compensation from the cancer center and related organizations, according to the most recent Internal Revenue Service filings.

“Should Craig still sit on the Merck board? We have no policy on that,” Mr. Warner said during the meeting, explaining that he had discussed the board membership with Dr. Thompson when he joined the hospital in 2010.

And while it was viewed as a “good thing,” Mr. Warner added that “we got to step back from that now and ask ourselves whether that continues to be appropriate, whether it’s appropriate in the future.”

In a memo late last week and again at Monday’s meeting, the New York-based cancer center emphasized the necessity to overhaul its policies, which had did not address a number of the potential conflicts made public recently at a time when investors are tossing vast amounts of money at start-ups developing promising treatments.

Dr. Thompson said Monday that working with for-profit companies remained a priority. “We can't be shy about the importance of investments in bringing forward these advances,” he said.

Dr. Baselga had did not disclose many dollars in payments from health and pharmaceutical companies in medical journal articles. In his resignation letter, he acknowledged his lapses and said the controversy had proved to be “too much of a distraction.” Neither his resignation letter nor the hospital’s statement about it suggested that he had been fired.

But in his remarks, Mr. Warner indicated that Dr. Baselga had been forced out. “I need to say it’s a tragedy,” he said. “I liked José. I like José a lot. But unfortunately, José left us no choice.”

Dr. Baselga, one among the world’s leading carcinoma researchers have also resigned from the boards of the drugmaker Bristol Myers-Squibb and Varian Medical Systems, a maker of radiation equipment.

Christine Hickey, a hospital spokeswoman, said: “Dr. Baselga resigned, he was not fired.

Mr. Warner was making the purpose that we had no choice but to simply accept his resignation.”

She also said Mr. Warner and Dr. Thompson were referring not to his ties to outside companies but to a “conflict of commitment.”

“Dr. Baselga wanted to require on more, join more boards, be involved in additional outside efforts,” she said. “He was overextended.”

Memorial Sloan Kettering also announced late last week that it might limit the involvement of its board members in start-ups affiliated with the hospital, a development that followed news of an exclusive deal the hospital made with a man-made intelligence company founded by Memorial Sloan Kettering insiders.

On Monday, Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, sent a letter to Dr. Thompson seeking answers to a series of questions on the affect the corporate, Paige.AI, giving it the proper to access images of 25 million tissue slides analyzed over decades.

Her letter questioned how the hospital planned to make sure patient privacy, among other issues, many of which had been raised by hospital doctors at the interior meetings once the deal became public.

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