Moffitt Officials Resign, HHS Awards $319 Million to National Health Service Corps, and more

Matthew J. Walter, MD

Edward P. Evans Foundation Awards $10 Million in Funding for MDS Research

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston have each received $5 million in grants from the Edward P. Evans Foundation to establish new centers focused on advancing research and treatment for myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Each center will be named for Mr. Evans.

At Washington University, Matthew J. Walter, MD, will lead the new Edward P. Evans Center for Myelodysplastic Syndromes. Dr. Walter is a Professor of Medicine at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Walter and his colleagues plan to study age-related clonal hematopoiesis to understand the difference between patients who go on to develop MDS and those who don’t, including genetic and environmental factors. The funding also will support a fellowship for researchers in training and a professorship.

Benjamin Ebert, MD, PhD
David Steensma, MD

The Edward P. Evans Center for Myelodysplastic Syndromes at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will be led by Benjamin Levine Ebert, MD, PhD, and ASH Clinical News Editor-in-Chief David Steensma, MD, as Scientific Director and Clinical Research Director, respectively. Dr. Steensma also will serve as the Edward P. Evans Chair in MDS Research. The grant will support transformative collaborative research aimed at treating, preventing, and ultimately curing MDS. Dana-Farber has also committed institutional matching funds over the next 5 years to support the center, the center’s faculty, and MDS research within the center.

Sources: Washington University School of Medicine press release, September 11, 2019; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute press release, September 17, 2019.


Moffitt Officials Resign Amid Investigation of Disclosure Problems Related to Chinese Researchers

Six officials and researchers from the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, have resigned amid a controversy related to research collaboration with Chinese investigators. Both the center’s CEO, Alan List, MD, and its vice president and Cancer Center director, Thomas Sellers, PhD, left their leadership positions.

The departures occurred during ongoing investigations by federal officials into foreign influence on American-funded medical research. During an internal review, Moffitt’s compliance office found several violations related to research collaborations with investigators from China. Some of these violations were related to employees’ personal involvement in China’s Thousand Talents Plan, which violated the center’s conflict-of-interest policies. The program is designed to bring leading Chinese scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs who are working at U.S. and European institutions back to China. Experts have testified that Congress should end financial assistance to Thousand Talents participants, as some worry these individuals could “steal” scientific breakthroughs.

Officials added that there is no indication that research performed at Moffitt was compromised or that patient care has been affected.

Moffitt’s board chair, Timothy Adams, MD, has taken on operational duties as the center searches for a new CEO. “About last summer, the NIH began warning institutions to be on alert,” he told the Tampa Bay Times. “Our compliance team spent countless hours reviewing the findings of the investigation in this unfortunate circumstance.”

The center’s compliance office also is reviewing its 12-year research and education partnership with Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital, located in Beijing.

On December 20, NCI director Norman “Ned” Sharpless, MD, convened a call with the directors of all 71 NCI-designated cancer centers, in which he emphasized the need to fully comply with NIH policies on conflict of interest and intellectual property.

Sources: Tampa Bay Times, December 18, 2019; AP News, December 19, 2019; Cancer Letter, December 20, 2019.


Thomas J. Lynch Jr. to Become New President and Director of Fred Hutch

Effective February 2020, Thomas J. Lynch Jr., MD, will assume the role of president and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Prior to this appointment, Dr. Lynch was chief scientific officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where his focus on translational immunooncology led to the development of new therapies for patients with solid tumor and hematologic malignancies. His career has also included serving as chair and CEO of Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, director of Yale Cancer Center, physician-in-chief of Yale’s Smilow Cancer Hospital, professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, chief of Hematology-Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Lynch’s research focuses on solid tumor cancers, precision medicine, and immunotherapy. His work has earned awards from several organizations, including the American Association for Cancer Research and the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer.

Source: Fred Hutch press release, January 7, 2020.


HHS Awards $319 Million to National Health Service Corps Clinicians and Students

Through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced it will provide $319 million in scholarships and loan repayment awards to students and clinicians entering the National Health Service Corps (NHSC).

The NHSC supports qualified health care providers dedicated to working in areas of the U.S. with limited access to care. There are more than 13,000 medical, dental, and behavioral care providers serving more than 13.7 million patients in tribal, urban, and rural U.S. communities through the NHSC, as well as 1,480 residents and students planning to enter the Corps.

“These loan repayment awards and scholarships make it possible for dedicated clinicians to care for the patients who need them most, including Americans with opioid use disorder and other substance abuse challenges,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said.

The awards also will help expand efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, with $80 million supporting substance use disorder treatment in underserved areas throughout the U.S., including 1,250 clinicians at more than 2,000 rural sites.

Source: HHS press release, October 23, 2019.