Boren promises to announce results of investigation of cancer study

Tuesday, July 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ARDMORE, Okla. (AP) -- University of Oklahoma President David Boren said he will announce results of an internal investigation of a cancer study shut down by federal officials at the OU College of Medicine in Tulsa. The findings of a task force created to review compliance with research contracts and grants will be shared and any corrective and disciplinary actions to ensure the safety and accuracy of other research projects will be made public, Boren told the OU Board of Regents at their monthly meeting on Monday.

Federal health officials last month accused researchers at the medical school and its research oversight board of repeatedly violating federal regulations. Study participants who were seriously ill with melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, were injected with a vaccine developed by the principal researcher, Michael McGee. Twenty-six of the 98 patients involved in the study died, but OU officials have said nothing links problems with the study to the deaths. McGee; Daniel Plunket, chairman of the Institutional Review Board charged with oversight of the study; and Ed Wortham, director of Tulsa's Office of Research Administration were removed from their positions. They still work at the university.

Boren said he is waiting for reports before determining if any of the researchers or other university officials will be fired. Research at the Tulsa campus represents less than 1 percent of the university's medical research projects and the problem with the skin cancer study is isolated, Boren said. "If this had to happen, I'm glad it happened now and not when Tulsa already represented 10 to 20 percent of our research," Boren said.

In other business, Boren accepted only part of the $50,000 raise regents offered him. Boren said he would accept only the 3 percent -- less than $6,500-- given to other university employees. The remainder will be donated to the university's private foundation. Boren has routinely accepted only partial raises, OU spokeswoman Catherine Bishop said. Boren also announced a $1.5 million gift to fund six endowed professorships. The gift is from Russ Pitman, whose father, Morris Pitman, graduated from OU in 1932. The money will establish two professorships each in the College of Architecture and College of Fine Arts and one professorship each in the Michael F. Price College of Business and the Honors College.