José Baselga, MD, PhD, has resigned as chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Earlier this week, The New York Times and ProPublica — a nonprofit investigative journalism organization — published a report stating Baselga failed to disclose several million dollars’ worth of payments he received from drug and health care companies.
In an interview cited in The New York Times/ProPublica report, Baselga described the lack of disclosure reporting as unintentional.
However, 6 days after that report was published, Baselga submitted a letter of resignation to Craig B. Thompson, MD, president of Memorial Sloan Kettering Center.
“Unfortunately, I fear my continued role leading clinical care and research will become too much of a distraction to the hospital and its remarkable team of physicians, researchers and staff,” Baselga wrote in the letter. “I have been extremely proud to work at Memorial Sloan Kettering, where together we have made enormous strides in our fight against cancer, and this effort must continue uninterrupted.”
The report by The New York Times and ProPublica indicated Baselga failed to follow financial disclosure rules established by American Association for Cancer Research when he served as the organization’s president.
The report also said payments Baselga received from companies connected to cancer research were left out of articles he wrote that appeared in Cancer Discovery, an AACR journal, and suggested Baselga offered “a positive spin” on results of two Roche-sponsored clinical trials at a conference earlier this year without disclosing that he had received more than $3 million in consultant fees from the company.
“I take full responsibility for failing to make appropriate disclosures in scientific and medical journals, and at professional meetings,” Baselga wrote in his resignation letter. “I have already updated disclosures in medical journals and will continue to do so until the record is complete.”
Baselga added that his involvement with several biotech and pharmaceutical companies — as well as his roles as a consultant — were reported to and reviewed by Memorial Sloan Kettering officials. That information was “widely available ... through a variety of sources” to others in the academic research community and members of the public, he wrote.
“Beyond me, this is an important matter for the entire medical research field,” Baselga wrote. “It is my hope that this situation will inspire a doubling down on transparency in our field and that Memorial Sloan Kettering, other research institutions, industry, publications, professional societies and other stakeholders continue to work together to standardize the disclosure process.”