Memorial Sloan Kettering CMO Steps Down Following His Failure to Disclose Financial Ties to the Industry in Published Articles


Days after a report by The New York Times and ProPublica revealed José Baselga, chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, failed to disclose his vast financial ties to various companies in journal articles, the noted cancer researcher has resigned from his position.

Late Thursday the Times reported that Beselga turned in his resignation following the revelation that he earned millions of dollars from those ties. Since the initial report broke earlier this week, the Times reported that the top brass at Memorial Sloan Kettering have “scrambled to contain the fallout.” Leadership at the cancer institute held several emergency meetings about the situation, according to the report.

According to the letter of resignation the Times obtained, Beselga said he believed the concerns over his failure to disclose those financial ties would become a distraction to his role at MSK. He added, according to The Times that he hoped the situation that occurred from his lack of disclosure would “inspire a doubling down on transparency in our field.” Baselga added he hoped that medical journals and the community would establish a more standardized system for reporting industry ties, according to the article.

Baselga’s resignation was effective immediately, although MSK spokesperson Christine Hickey told The Times that Baselga would remain with the organization for two weeks in order to help with any transition.

Earlier this week the two publications reported that while Baselga was president of the American Association for Cancer Research, he failed to report payments he received from drug companies conducting cancer research the articles he published in the AACR’s journal, Cancer Discovery. Baselga has held advisory roles with several pharmaceutical giants, such as Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he serves on the company’s board of directors. At Genentech, the Roche subsidiary, he played a key role in the development of Herceptin, the noted breast cancer treatment. He has also taken stakes in cancer startup companies, the report said. In all, Baselga has a “relationship” with at least a dozen companies, according to the report.

The Times and ProPublica report noted that Baselga has received more than $3 million from Roche related to consulting fees, as well as from his stake in a company that the Swiss pharma giant acquired. Additionally, the article said that Baselga attempted to put a positive spin on some Roche cancer trial data that had been considered disappointments.  

In its report, The Times said Baselga failed to report his ties to the industry in “60 percent of the nearly 180 papers he had published since 2013.” Last year that failure to disclose was at about 87 percent, according to the report.

Following the initial report, Baselga told media outlets that he intended to correct his conflict-of-interest reporting for 17 articles. The Times confirmed that Baselga reached out the New England Journal of Medicine with changes to his disclosure. However, the paper reported that before those changes could be made, the editors of the prestigious journal had some questions for him before they would make those changes.

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