Dr. Laurence Cooper: Corporate Centerfold

Dr. Laurence Cooper:
Corporate Centerfold


Leonard Zwelling

         You really have got to be kidding.

         I am fully aware of Dr. Cooper’s research and its potential
benefit to patients. I am also aware that he has decided to take a formerly
unusual, but now all too common, route to success–moving to the private
sector. Sort of.

         The Houston
front page on Sunday December 20 sports the smiling face of the
former (?) MD Anderson pediatrician and his potentially billion dollar cell
therapy. I am all for Dr. Cooper’s important research and was actually host to
a party that was thrown to recruit him when my wife, Dr. Kleinerman and Dr.
Champlin, were trying to woo him away from City of Hope and join MD Anderson.
Dick and Genie ran a successful recruiting effort and Dr. Cooper was
immediately successful in attracting grant money and expanding his laboratory
program in cell therapy at Anderson. This is all great. What is not great is
what has happened in the past year.

         I shall try to keep my temper.

         As I have previously reported, Dr. Kleinerman was summarily
discharged as Head of Pediatrics in February of this year. No reason was given
then or since. Of course, the announcement read that she stepped down but it
was a Luca Brasi style resignation. It was her signature or her brains on the
contract per Drs. Dmitrovsky and Buchholz. (Dr. DePInho didn’t even have the
courtesy or courage to show up himself).

         Of course, it was generally thought that this dismissal was
due to a variety of reasons.

         There was some poppycock about safety on the in-patient
floor, but that was all about nursing problems none of which Dr. Kleinerman had
any oversight of.

         There was me, The Evil Blogger, who was doing his best to
drive her bosses crazy. I guess I succeeded.

         Then there was the truth that this latest article reveals:


         Without a doubt, Dr. DePinho wished Dr. Cooper to ascend to
the Head of Pediatrics, but old Laurence fooled Old Nick. Dr. Cooper ran off
with the money: a $1 million signing bonus from Ziopharm, a $500,000 annual
salary (far in excess of what Dr. DePinho could pay him) and goodness knows how
much stock Dr. Cooper is splitting with his 50 “co-creators” and with MD
Anderson itself. AND—Cooper continues spending the majority of his time at
Anderson. Why? “It is, after all, where the patients are.” Therein lies the

         If there is one thing that MD Anderson’s patients need to
steer clear of is involvement with people with a vested financial interest in
the outcome of clinical trials on which these patients may be asked to participate.
This is a blatant and unethical personal and institutional conflict of interest
that may take the cake for the worst I have ever seen, and I study this stuff a
fair amount.

         With all of the struggles that Dr. DePinho has endured with
his questionable ethics on TV, applying for grants, nepotism, and dealing with
corporate America, this may be the most egregious. This President greatly
outdoes the dreadful behavior of his predecessor who oversaw the work of
faculty testing the therapy he invented without any of the human subjects being
aware of that President’s involvement back in 2002.


         What the heck is wrong with these people and what the heck
is wrong with the Chronicle?

         This could be the greatest example of financial conflict of
interest in the history of academic medicine and the newspaper seemingly touts
it as scientific progress without a mention of what might happen should a
patient die on the trial being done at Anderson when all of those people on
campus stand to gain from the success of the trial.

         Frankly, this is outrageous even by Texas standards and
shame on the Chronicle for not being
able to grasp it.

         Oh yes. Shame on the ethics people at Anderson, its in-house
attorneys and its Institutional Review Board whose job it is to protect
patients from unethical doings like this.

         Are there any adults left at 1515 Holcombe or have they all
been fired?

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