March 26, 2008

Cornell Med School Lung Cancer Study Reveals Conflict of Interest With Tobacco Company

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According to the New York Times, a review of tax records indicates that a lung cancer study conducted by Dr. Claudia Henschke of Weill Cornell Medical College received funding from a cigarette company. The findings may threaten the legitimacy of the 2006 study, which said that 80 percent of lung cancer deaths can be prevented by the widespread use of CT scans.
The Sun reported on March 3 that Philip Morris USA, one of the largest tobacco corporations in the world, is currently providing $1 million in funding to the plant breeding and genetics department, and that this is the only research university currently being funded by a tobacco company.
When Henschke’s study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, it was stated in small print that the research funded partially by a charity organization, the Foundation for Lung Cancer: Early Detection, Prevention & Treatment. However, The Times revealed that nearly $3.6 million in grants came from the Vector Group, the parent company of the Liggett Group, which manufactures Liggett Select, Eve, Grand Prix, Quest and Pyramid brand cigarettes.
A spokesman from the Vector Group told The Times that the company had no influence on the results of the study.
However Dr. Jerome Kassirer, a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, suggested to The Times that WCMC may have created the foundation that funded the research as means to hide the documentation of grants from the Vector Group.
“You have to ask yourself the question, ‘Why did the tobacco company want to support her research?’ ” Dr. Kassirer told The Times. “They want to show that lung cancer is not so bad as everybody thinks because screening can save people; and that’s outrageous.”
According to Dr. Antonio M. Gotto Jr., the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of WCMC, the University has a “very strict oversight policy” for conflicts of interest,” he told The Times.