The Cancer Letter Did Not
Make This Up

By

Leonard Zwelling

         On August 25, the Cancer Letter went to press with a free
edition that does the public a tremendous service.

http://www.cancerletter.com/articles/20140825

It
creates a comprehensive and comprehensible time line for the events that seem
to have culminated in the indictment of a sitting governor in Texas. Rick Perry
is the longest serving governor in the history of the state and now the first
to be indicted since 1917 (see Indicting a Ham Sandwich or a Haircut, www.lenzwelling,blogspot.com, AUG 19). But is this really the end, or just the
beginning? Paul Goldberg’s piece raises more questions than it answers and now
it is up to the prosecutors in this case to answer them. Many of these
questions have been around for quite a while.

         The questions surround the Public Integrity Unit within the
Travis County DA’s office that Perry sought to defund putatively because of a
DWI charge and guilty plea by the Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg. Her
office oversees the Public Integrity Unit. But does that really make sense?
Would a grand jury indict a sitting governor for threatening to do what he is
constitutionally able to do? Or, as Goldberg suggests, is there much more to
the story?

         To put this in context, let’s drop back to CPRIT, the
10-year, $3B cancer fighting fund that was approved by the Texas voters a few
years ago. CPRIT has been fraught with controversy for a number of reasons.

1. That’s a lot of money for science at a time when
federal dollars are getting harder and harder to come by.

2. It was never clear to anyone if CPRIT was mainly about
funding basic science or was an adjunct to the Emerging Technology Fund to
increase the number of biotech start-ups and jobs in Texas.

3. Choosing a Nobel Laureate to run the science part
suggested to most that funding the best science was the goal of CPRIT. The
stellar group of out-of-state reviewers that Dr. Gilman, the Nobel laureate,
assembled further indicated that CPRIT was going to take the high road of
science over commerce.

4. Then came the incidences that Goldberg describes of
money starting to slosh around a little too loosely at MD Anderson and in
Dallas. An indictment of one of the CPRIT leaders involved in the funding of a
Dallas company was the clearest example of official misconduct surrounding
CPRIT.

But
is that the end of it?

Goldberg
suggests that it may not be as he names names of those from the private sector
who may have tried to influence the distribution of CPRIT money in a fashion
that led the Nobel laureate leading the scientific program and his Nobel
laureate leader of the science review groups to resign.

I
urge you all to read this special issue of the Cancer Letter (it’s free) and
come to your own conclusions. My guess is that like me, you won’t be able to
because it raises more questions than it answers.

1.               
Had anyone
at the state level really determined what CPRIT was about before it launched?

2.               
In
launching it, were the right people put in charge and given fiduciary roles of
stewardship over the people’s money?

3.               
Can we get
some clarity as to the various roles of people at UT MD Anderson and UT
Southwestern in this controversy?

4.               
What about
the private citizens named in the Cancer Letter and others on the CPRIT
oversight board past and present including gubernatorial candidate Gregg
Abbott?

As
usual, Goldberg, who in full disclosure is a close personal friend, has done a
great service in drawing out the time line that makes it impossible to dissect
CPRIT from the governor’s legal woes. It will be up to the current prosecutors
to sort all of this out. Most of us who care about good cancer science hope
when the dust settles there is something left of CPRIT to do some good.

Leonard Zwelling