Friday, 12 October 2018

Sloan Kettering Researchers Correct

Sloan Kettering Researchers Correct

Sloan Kettering Researchers Correct the Record by Revealing Company Ties

This article was reported and written together with ProPublica, the nonprofit journalism organization.

Top researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have filed a minimum of seven corrections with medical journals recently, divulging financial relationships with health care companies that they did not previously disclose.

The hospital’s chief executive, Dr. Craig B. Thompson, disclosed his relationship with companies including the drug maker Merck, and Dr. Jedd Wolchok, a noted pioneer in cancer immunotherapy listed his affiliations with 31 companies.

The corrections followed the resignation in September of Dr. José Baselga, the cancer center’s chief medic, who had did not disclose his company ties in dozens of articles in medical journals, including prominent publications like The New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Baselga’s omissions, including payments totaling millions of dollars were first reported last month by The New York Times and ProPublica.

Since then, medical centers around the country, including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and N.Y.U. Langone Health, have urged their researchers to review whether or not they properly reported relationships with outside companies.

According to a correction posted Sept. 17 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Dr. Thompson’s conflict-of-interest statement had not been included in a piece of writing published in January.

The updated disclosure noted his role as a founding father of Agios Pharmaceuticals, a cancer start-up, and his position on the boards of two publicly traded companies, Merck and Charles River Laboratories, which assist research in early drug discovery.

Dr. Thompson received $300,000 from Merck in 2017 and was paid $70,000 in cash by Charles River, plus $215,050 available, consistent with the companies’ financial filings.

His compensation package as Memorial Sloan Kettering’s chief the executive is $6.7 million.

Dr. Thompson resigned from both company boards on Oct. 2, after weeks of internal turmoil at the nonprofit hospital and public scrutiny of its leaders’ financial relationships with for-profit companies.

In a statement, Mike Morey, a spokesman for Memorial Sloan Kettering said the hospital had instructed its researchers to review their conflict-of-interest disclosures and submit corrections where necessary.

Mr. Morey also said that a “patchwork” of disclosure requirements by different publications have complicated matters.

“In many cases, researchers are now disclosing above and beyond what is asked for and required, even when their disclosures have no connection to the research they conducted,” he said, adding that Memorial Sloan Kettering has created a task force to establish its own standards.

“This is a massive, industry-wide problem.”

In a statement, Dr. Thompson said his correction arose from the broader review.

“I was no different,” he said. Of the more than 70 articles he published since arriving at the hospital in 2010, he said, “I identified one study in my review, of which I used to be a secondary author, that I thought should be updated.”

Some of the omissions were extensive.

In an updated disclosure, Dr. Wolchok, director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the hospital, outlined his ties to many companies, including receiving consulting fees, owning stock options or being a co-founder.

The list of companies that pay him range from major manufacturers like Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck, for whom he's employed as a purchased consultant, to start-ups like BeiGene, Apricity and Adaptive Biotech, during which he reports owning stock options.

He corrected two articles within the journal neoplastic cell and a 3rd within the Journal of Clinical
Investigation.

Dr. Wolchok may be a widely regarded expert in immunotherapy, having treated some of the primary patients with a drug supported the work of Dr. James P. Allison, who along with Tasuku Honjo won this year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Other Memorial Sloan Kettering researchers on Dr. Wolchok’s papers also updated their interactions with industry, including Dr. Matthew D. Hellmann, Dr. Taha Merghoub, and Dr. Michael A. Postow.

“Although the below additional disclosures are not directly relevant to the published work, the authors put them forward within the spirit of full transparency,” one correction said.

“The authors apologize for any inconvenience.”

Dr. Wolchok didn't disclose most of his 31 relationships in articles recently published in other journals, including the New England Journal of drugs, JAMA and Lancet Oncology.

Dr. Wolchok has been paid quite $90,000 from major drug companies since 2014, according to a federal database that only includes payments from companies whose products received approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Most of his relationships are with early-stage start-ups.

Dr. Wolchok said he conducted a review of quite 300 articles and decided to submit updated disclosures on some of them “out of an abundance of caution.”

Some journals, including Cancer Discovery, “have rejected these updates because they need determined they are not relevant to the subject matter,” Dr. Wolchok said in a statement.

Mr. Morey said that existing disclosures in the other articles, including those published in the New England Journal of drugs, where appropriate, supported Dr. Wolchok’s interpretation of the journals’ guidelines.

Although medical journals vary in their requirements, many urge researchers to err on the side of revealing a company relationship.

One set of guidelines published by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors advise authors:

“You should disclose interactions with ANY entity that would be considered broadly relevant to the work.”

As an example, it says for a researcher studying a specific aspect of carcinoma, “you should report all associations with entities pursuing diagnostic or therapeutic strategies in cancer in general.”

Other corrections involved Dr. Michelle Bradbury, who is that the head of a search laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering and a director within the radiology department.

In two corrections published Monday within the journal Chemistry of Materials, Dr. Bradbury and another study authors said that they should have disclosed that two of them, as well as their institutions — Memorial Sloan Kettering and Cornell University — have a financial interest in Elucidate Oncology.

The original articles were published in 2017.

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