CT scanning, a promising approach to detecting lung cancer at early, treatable stages, has been dealt a setback with the revelation that the most prominent study so far in support of it was funded almost entirely by a cigarette company—with the funds funneled through a foundation set up by the study’s author, Dr. Claudia Henschke, reports the New York Times. Although the funding revelation doesn’t negate the results of the study, it raises huge conflict of interest flags and reveals how a tobacco company secretly influenced professional opinion by funneling $3.6 million into the foundation over a three year period.
The revelation raises several questions, including whether the tobacco company influenced the study, who knew the real source of the funding, and whether Weill Cornell Medical College—where Dr. Henschke is a faculty member—implicitly supported the foundation’s creation to hide the source of the funding. Two Cornell officials who sat on the board of the foundation have denied any knowledge of Liggett’s involvement.
Dr. Jerome Kassirer, a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine and the author of a book about conflicts of interest, said he believed that Weill Cornell had created the foundation to hide its receipt of money from a cigarette company. “You have to ask yourself the question, ‘Why did the tobacco company want to support her research?’ ” Dr. Kassirer said. “They want to show that lung cancer is not so bad as everybody thinks because screening can save people; and that’s outrageous.”
“Cigarette Company Paid for Lung Cancer Study” [New York Times]