More than a dozen papers by Sloan Kettering researchers have now been updated with financial disclosures

Michelle Bradbury, via MSKCC

On Wednesday, we reported that a month after media reports of undisclosed conflicts of interest by top brass at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a researcher there had corrected two papers to include financial conflicts of interest.

Today, The New York Times and ProPublica — which had broken the original story about former chief medical officer Jose Baselga — reported on at least 13 corrections made by Sloan Kettering scientists so far, including the two by Michelle Bradbury that we reported on Wednesday. And we have learned of another correction by Bradbury, bringing the total to at least 14 — and counting.

In addition to the two October 8 corrections in Chemistry of Materials, a correction appeared yesterday in Applied Materials & Interfaces for a paper in which Bradbury was one of three corresponding authors. The correction to “Melanocortin-1 Receptor-Targeting Ultrasmall Silica Nanoparticles for Dual-Modality Human Melanoma Imaging” reads:

We would like to correct the competing interests statement to read “the subject matter presented herein may be covered by one or more U.S. or international patent applications. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Cornell University, and two investigators involved in this study have a financial interest in Elucida Oncology, Inc.

Bradbury has not responded to our requests for comment first sent Tuesday, but she told The New York Times and ProPublica:

In a handful of cases, even though the research in these publications was very early stage and rooted in basic science, my co-author from Cornell and I decided we would update them.

Sloan Kettering spokesperson Christine Hickey tells Retraction Watch:

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, like institutions across the country, including NYU-Langone, Dana-Farber, Massachusetts General Hospital and others, has instructed researchers associated with our institution to review their disclosures and where appropriate make adjustments. Varied disclosure rules at various publications leave a patchwork of requirements that are not standardized. 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.”

This is an industry-wide problem. Disclosure standards in journals across the country are so inconsistent that even the Association of American Medical Colleges is trying to address the matter right now with a new tool to serve as a single disclosure mechanism to increase consistency across institutions, professional societies, and journals. Here at Memorial Sloan Kettering, we have launched a task force with the intent to establish our own industry-leading standards.

It’s certainly true that journals have fallen down on the job of policing conflicts of interest, as we have noted in STAT, but how that would mean that a financial relationship would only need to be reported in a clinical study, rather than in basic science, is unclear. We’ve asked Hickey to clarify.

The New York Times and ProPublica report that Baselga has corrected at least seven papers so far, that Sloan Kettering chief executive Craig Thompson has corrected one, and that the cancer center’s Jedd Wolchok has corrected three.

2 thoughts on “More than a dozen papers by Sloan Kettering researchers have now been updated with financial disclosures”

  1. If the “basic research” is testing or developing IP for a commercial entity, that’s no less of a potential COI than a clinical study testing a product. Positive preclinical results are needed for the next big round of investment to keep a start up going. Sheesh. It’s not rocket science, just state your financial relationship with the company you are working with. The company wouldn’t be having you do the work, whether its bench, cell culture, animal model or clinical, if it wasn’t of importance to their business. They aren’t the NIH funding research with tax dollars – companies are hoping for a return on investment in sponsored research. Putting the blame on journal policies not being identical is just weak.

  2. Your phrase “the NIH funding research with tax dollars” sounds so benign compared to profit-taking, doesn’t it? Except for the fact that it’s also the NIH funding monthly salaries, mortgage payments, retirement accounts, and kids’ educations. Publications and grants matter much more to individuals in academia than the paltry bumps in stock prices that might occasionally occur after publications by industry scientists. Still, nobody from the Ivory Tower has to explain those motivators at the beginning of conference talks or the end of manuscripts.

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