Memorial Sloan Kettering CMO failed to disclose conflicts of interest in major research journals

An analysis by The New York Times and ProPublica revealed José Baselga, MD, PhD, medical oncologist, physician-in-chief and CMO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, failed to disclose significant financial ties to the drug industry and other healthcare companies in major medical research journals like The New England Journal of Medicine.

Here are seven things to know about the report:

1. The news organizations investigated Dr. Baselga's publications in medical journals since he started at MSK in 2013. They found he did not disclose industry relationships in more than 100 papers, or about 60 percent of his publications, in the past five years. In contrast, one or more of Dr. Baselga's co-authors disclosed industry relationships in about two-thirds of the papers in which he made no disclosures, according to the report.

2. The investigations found he violated financial disclosure rules of the American Association for Cancer Research and failed to disclose his payments from cancer research companies in articles published by Cancer Discovery. Dr. Baselga was president of AACR at the time and co-editor-in-chief of Cancer Discovery, according to the report.

3. Dr. Baselga has served on six boards since 2013, including those of Bristol-Myers Squibb and Varian Medical Systems, a radiation equipment company. He has also served as a paid consultant for Roche, Novartis, Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca. He received $3.5 million from nine drug and device companies between August 2013 and the end of 2017, according to the report. He has also invested in and advised dozens of biotech startups but has not disclosed his financial stake in those startups. Disclosure is not required until a company has a product approved by the FDA.

4. Dr. Baselga told The New York Times and ProPublica the lapses in disclosure were unintentional and that his industry work was known among the public. He provided a color-coded breakdown of his publications, which states that 62 of his papers do not require disclosures because they were about "basic laboratory or translational work." He said he will correct 17 papers.

5. After the story about Dr. Baselga ran on the front page of The New York Times Sept. 9, MSK President and CEO Craig Thompson, MD, and COO Kathryn Martin wrote a joint letter to faculty imploring them to "do a better job" reporting conflicts of interest when collaborating with industry partners. "The matter of disclosure is serious," they wrote. "We need to work with journal publishers and professional societies to standardize the reporting process."

6. Some of Dr. Baselga's industry ties overlap with the work of MSK. For example, Dr. Baselga earned $260,000 in cash and stock serving on the Varian board last year, and MSK is a Varian client. However, the cancer center said Dr. Baselga has reported these ties and is responsible for reporting them to medical journals. He is kept out of MSK business decisions related to his industry connections. "We encourage collaboration and are proud that our work has led to the approval of novel, lifesaving cancer treatments for patients around the world," said Christine Hickey, a spokeswoman for MSK.

7. The New England Journal of Medicine plans to overhaul its method for tracking authors' industry ties and asked Dr. Baselga to correct his publications. The American Association for Cancer Research is reviewing his disclosure forms. It has never penalized an author before, but its penalty would be a three-year publishing ban, according to the report.

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