Wednesday, August 4, 2010

University of Wisconsin cancer researcher quits

amid conflict of interest investigation

From the Wisconsin State Journal

A prominent UW-Madison cancer researcher has abruptly resigned after university officials began investigating a potential conflict of interest involving his outside business interests.

The case involving Dr. Minesh Mehta, an internationally recognized expert on human clinical cancer trials, comes amid heightened national scrutiny of doctors' ties to industry and the university's own attempts to better monitor such relationships.

In April, the UW-Madison committee responsible for protecting the rights and welfare of participants in research studies became aware of a potential conflict involving Mehta and his paid consulting work with TomoTherapy Inc., a Madison company that makes cancer treatment devices, according to documents obtained by the State Journal through an open records request.

For most of the last decade, Mehta has been the lead researcher of a federally funded clinical trial of a specialized radiation treatment for cancer patients known generically as tomotherapy. The device used to administer the radiation to a majority of participants in the study is made by TomoTherapy.

UW-Madison initiated a formal investigation, and participants in the clinical trial subsequently were told of the potential conflict, said Lisa Brunette, a UW Hospital spokeswoman.

In the notification letter to participants, a copy of which the State Journal obtained, UW-Madison says "information about this type of potential financial conflict of interest is ordinarily included in the consent form presented to potential research subjects."

Mehta's ties to TomoTherapy became much more public last November when Dr. Eli Glatstein, a University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine professor and a revered figure in oncology research circles, chastised Mehta in an editorial in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics.

Glatstein was irked that Mehta didn't reveal his ties to TomoTherapy when criticizing a TomoTherapy competitor in the pages of the same scholarly journal. In an e-mail message to the State Journal, Glatstein said his beef was not just with Mehta but with "a generation of people who don't seem to recognize a conflict of interest when it smashes them in the mouth."


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