Close Close Comment Creative Commons Donate Email Add Email Facebook Instagram Facebook Messenger Mobile Nav Menu Podcast Print RSS Search Secure Twitter WhatsApp YouTube

Top Cancer Doctor Resigns as Editor of Medical Journal

Dr. José Baselga, the former chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, was asked to resign after he failed to disclose corporate ties in dozens of scientific articles.

José Baselga, shown at an event in 2016, was asked to step down as editor of a medical journal. He resigned as chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering in September. (Brent N. Clarke/FilmMagic via Getty Images)

This story was co-published with The New York Times.

Dr. José Baselga, the former chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, resigned under pressure on Wednesday as one of the editors in chief of Cancer Discovery, a prominent scientific journal, after he failed to accurately disclose his conflicts of interest in dozens of articles in medical journals.

The American Association for Cancer Research, which publishes the journal, said a panel of experts and the group’s board of directors had concluded that “Dr. Baselga did not adhere to the high standards pertaining to conflict of interest disclosures that the AACR expects of its leadership.”

“Consequently, Dr. Baselga was asked to resign from his role at the journal,” said a statement sent to the association’s members.

Baselga, a prominent figure in the world of cancer research, had helped found the journal and served as an editor for the past eight years. The AACR, which he formerly led as president, concluded that his omissions were inadvertent and said it would allow Baselga to continue publishing in its journals.

“Dr. Baselga is a valued member of the AACR with acknowledged expertise in clinical and translational cancer research,” Dr. Margaret Foti, the group’s chief executive, said in the statement.

Baselga’s disclosure lapses have prompted a broader discussion over the influence of the drug and health care industries on medical research, including whether journals should do a better job of ensuring that researchers accurately report their corporate ties. Teaching hospitals across the country have reminded faculty members of their obligation to disclose, and some have begun re-examining which relationships are appropriate.

Baselga resigned as chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering in September after The New York Times and ProPublica reported that he had failed to disclose millions of dollars in payments from health care companies in dozens of research articles. He also resigned from the boards of the drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb and Varian Medical Systems, a maker of radiation equipment.

Contacted for comment, Baselga provided the resignation letter he sent to the AACR. In it, he thanked the cancer organization for its “deliberate and thorough review” and said he takes “great heart from the panel’s finding that my failure to disclose was inadvertent. I understand, however, that the situation made it difficult for me to continue in a leadership role.”

Baselga, 59, is an expert in breast cancer research and played a key role in the development of Herceptin by Genentech, a subsidiary of Roche. He came to Memorial Sloan Kettering in 2013 after serving as chief of hematology and oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Before that, he was a leader at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain.

Since September, Baselga has corrected his conflict-of-interest disclosures in several journals, including two in The New England Journal of Medicine, three in Clinical Cancer Research, five in JAMA Oncology and two in Cancer Discovery.

In a note that accompanied Baselga’s correction in The New England Journal of Medicine, editors described his failure as a “breach of trust.”

Baselga also revised disclosures with the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which said that his participation in future meetings will be contingent on a review of his presentation slides and that his sessions would be monitored for evidence of bias.

The group also said that if Baselga did not disclose his interactions in the future, he would be barred from participating in any meetings sponsored by ASCO for two years.

ProPublica and The Times found that Baselga had failed to report any industry ties in 60 percent of the nearly 180 papers he had published since 2013. That figure increased each year — he did not disclose any relationships in 87 percent of the journal articles that he co-wrote last year.

The AACR said its panel of experts will continue to look at conflict-of-interest disclosures, including how to “best harmonize such disclosures and provide greater clarity around these issues.”

Katie Thomas covers the pharmaceutical industry for The New York Times.

Protect Independent Journalism

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that produces nonpartisan, evidence-based journalism to expose injustice, corruption and wrongdoing. We were founded ten years ago to fill a growing hole in journalism: newsrooms were (and still are) shrinking, and legacy funding models failing. Deep-dive reporting like ours is slow and expensive, and investigative journalism is a luxury in many newsrooms today — but it remains as critical as ever to democracy and our civic life. A decade (and five Pulitzer Prizes) later, ProPublica has built the largest investigative newsroom in the country. Our work has spurred reform through legislation, at the voting booth, and inside our nation’s most important institutions.

This story you’ve just finished was funded by our readers and we hope it inspires you to make a gift to ProPublica so that we can publish more investigations like this one that holds people in power to account and produces real change.

Your donation will help us ensure that we can continue this critical work. From the Trump Administration, criminal justice, health care, immigration and so much more, we are busier than ever covering stories you won’t see anywhere else. Make your gift of any amount today and join the tens of thousands of ProPublicans across the country, standing up for the power of independent journalism to produce real, lasting change. Thank you.

Donate Now

Portrait of Charles Ornstein

Charles Ornstein

Charles Ornstein is a deputy managing editor at ProPublica, overseeing the Local Reporting Network, which works with local news organizations to produce accountability journalism on issues of importance to their communities. From 2008 to 2017, he was a senior reporter covering health care and the pharmaceutical industry. He then worked as a senior editor.

Latest Stories from ProPublica

Current site Current page