A true scientist must remain unbiased
The response by the Hutchinson Research Center tries to perpetuate the myth that scientific research is motivated by profit. There are enough rewards from making significant contributions that will help patients, or from discovering exciting new facts. Most medical researchers have chosen not to make millions of dollars from their work, because a true scientist must remain unbiased. It is disappointing to see that some physicians have accepted personal stock in companies that are funding their clinical research. Those physicians lose their credibility and the respect of their colleagues. Others at the University of Washington have made outstanding discoveries without yielding to the temptation to make personal fortunes. For example, Dr. Belding Scribner invented dialysis, which has saved millions of lives throughout the world. He could easily have been a multimillionaire, but instead he kept working to find ways to improve lives of patients with kidney failure and to make dialysis accessible to anyone who needed it.
Susan Ott, M.D., associate professor, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle
Physicians should be concerned foremost with patient safety
I'm not surprised. As a research nurse for many years in oncology, (I know that) physicians present complicated consent forms to patients/families under extreme levels of stress. These physicians should be concerned about patient safety above and beyond their own professional research reputations and potential financial gains. The Hutch is notorious for their arrogance in research in the medical community. Maybe they can join forces with the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and invest time and money into the proper training of their staffs. Hopefully, they will take this negative attention, become more humble, and improve their training programs.
Inga Marlow, Seattle
The issue is whether 'Hutch' provided accurate, complete information
The Hutch, affiliated biotech companies, and some satisfied survivors of experiments at the Hutch have roundly criticized the Times "Uninformed Consent" series. They argue that their mission is to cure cancer, their staff is caring and informative, and they have saved thousands of lives. No one is questioning all that. Of course that is their mission and of course they have saved lives in a caring way or they wouldn’t still be in business with a good reputation. That is not the point of the Times series. Rather, the issue is whether the Hutch provided accurate and complete information to those having to decide whether to enter high-risk experiments in which, as it happened, their doctors had a financial stake. The articles demonstrate it did not. The series provides clear evidence that critical information necessary for informed consent was omitted and that the Hutch's financial conflict-of-interest policy - even if it had been followed - is lax and inadequate, particularly in comparison with the policies in place at other prestigious cancer centers.
Hutch's defenders do not address the specific, disturbing issues raised by this series. Are they suggesting that because of the Hutch's good work it should not be questioned? Or should not be held to the same high standards as other organizations? Or that assertions of good intent and higher purpose are sufficient to make them immune from criticism? The whole purpose of investigative journalism to examine the trail of sacred cows. We don't let churches or charities, which presumably adhere to at least as great a calling, rely on "noble mission" or "status" defenses. Money clouds judgment. That's why responsible institutions zealously and openly guard the firewalls between those reaping financial benefit and those making judgment calls. That wall protects the foundation of trust.
Had the Hutch a better firewall, I'm sure Kathy Hamilton's story (Tuesday, March 13) likely would not have been a part of the series, had there been a series at all, because I was part of that story. She was one of my dearest friends for 34 years. I was with her when she drew her last breath and I was with her earlier during her decision to enter Protocol 681. With our mutual background in health care, both having been trained to question, we analyzed the Protocol in detail, discussing the science, the risks, her concerns, her goals. Her hope was to live at least long enough to get her 13-year old daughter through high school, longer than the 1 to 2 years she was given. But the goal was to raise her daughter as long as she could. "Ultimately," she said to me, "I have to trust them."
I had many opportunities to observe Kathy's decision-making style in her personal and professional life. Consistent with her career as a hospital planner, she was a cautious, deliberate, and rational decision maker, willing to make difficult, high-risk decisions - without regard to personal cost - but only after careful consideration of all her options. But the Tuesday article revealed that the Hutch withheld vital information when she made the fated decision to participate the experiment that took her life. Given her primary concern about her tendency to vomit, I have little doubt that had she known that the "rescue drugs" were not available in intravenous form or, more importantly, that they didn't even work - which we now know her doctors knew at that time - she would not have traded the 1 to 2 "given" years for a poor shot at 5. She would not have relied on trust.
I do not wish any harm to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as an institution. It is my hope that the Hutch will rise to new levels of greatness, taking wing from these lessons, borne on the ashes of my friend.
Marel Norwood, Ph.D., Seattle
Problems at 'The Hutch' are not isolated
Many cancer patients experience uninformed consent and other shortcomings, not just those written about in the wonderful Seattle Times series "Uninformed Consent." When I had breast cancer five years ago, I was not told that a lymph node dissection that accompanies surgery leaves many women with a lifetime of swelling and discomfort. Further, few women are told that a node dissection has no medical benefit for the patient. According to my doctor, a node dissection is simply a way of determining what statistical category a patient fits into. Regarding chemotherapy, my doctor did not tell me that one of the drugs I had been given, cytoxin, wasn't necessary for my treatment. I found it difficult to understand why I was being given this poison if my doctor felt it wasn't needed! I had hoped that my doctor would have taken the administering of a poison much more seriously. It was recommended to me that I have radiation for my cancer. When I asked about specific research at the medical library related to breast cancer and radiation that would be good for me to read, my doctor told me two remarkable things: 1) That she did not know of any research; 2) That people who go to the medical library to read about their cancer "have a pathological problem that speaks to an underlying trauma." The above two comments from my doctor left me speechless. Doctors are caring, compassionate people most of the time. But when patients such as myself ask penetrating questions, investigate by reading medical literature, or use wholistic, alternative methods of treatment, many doctors fail to respond respectfully and responsibly. Cancer patients such as myself who do not rely entirely on conventional cancer treatments are frustrated by the lack of informed consent and other transgressions that we too often endure. The problems at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are not isolated but are indicative of problems that are throughout the cancer establishment. The Seattle Times has done a wonderful service in bringing the Fred Hutch problems to light. They are to be commended for this. A problem cannot be fixed unless people are aware that a problem exits. Hats off to The Seattle Times!
Hannah McFarland, Seattle
Welcome to the dirty underbelly of American medicine
I believe that you and your colleagues have done a tremendous service to our
society by thoroughly investigating and reporting on the events at the
Hutch. Sadly, this may prove to be only the tip of the iceberg. I don't
need to tell you: welcome to the dirty underbelly of American medicine. I
hope that you and your newspaper will continue to work on stories like
Scott Kim, M.D., Ph.D, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, N.Y.
Series an important contribution for protections in research
Congratulations on your excellent (and terrifying) series on "Uninformed Consent." It is an important contribution to the ongoing struggle to develop and enhance meaningful protections for human subjects of
research. I hope it opens some eyes.
Irv Freeman, Ph.D., Chair of Research and Human Rights Committee (IRB), Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh
Give patients the facts
Regarding the articles on Uniformed Consent, I can't tell you how disturbed I am. As a Registered Nurse I completely understand the need for research and the good and bad outcomes it can produce. However, I believe researchers and physicians gravely underestimate the ability of lay people to make informed decisions. Give patients the facts. It is their body and they own the right to choose. Otherwise, the motives of all health care providers will be circumspect.
Karen Griffith, Bothell
Medical-research institutions need safeguards
I read with interest your articles regarding the Hutch. I am a professor of
Anesthesiology and Pharmaceutics at the University of Washington, and I have
been doing clinical research with patients and normal volunteers since 1976.
While I have not been directly involved with the Hutch, my general
observations of medical research over the years are such that I was not
particularly surprised by the content of the articles. While "partnerships"
between industry and medical-research institutions are necessary and
desirable, there are potential problems. The main goal of industry is to
make money, while research institutions should have the well-being of people
as the highest priority. These goals are sometimes in conflict. Situations
where large sums of money flow into the pockets of scientists and physicians
are particularly risky. Medical-research institutions need to have effective
safeguards, checks and balances, and oversight to assure the highest possible
ethical standards. There is always room for improvement, and your articles
are an important reminder to all of us engaged in medical research.
Hopefully the discussions that your articles will provoke will lead to
T Andrew Bowdle M.D., Ph.D., University of Washington, Seattle
Thank you for instigating conversations
A note of profound compliments on the series on the Hutch. The poisoning effects of arrogance are devastating and long lasting, despite being strangely unseen by the perpetrator. I have seen the effects of their approach and attitude first hand and for many years. Your investigation and report has taken courage and bravery, and I, for one, am in awe of your work. Thank you for making it public, and for starting the conversations that are now so active in the community. We can only hope that the right people get the message.
Terry R Rogers, M.D., clinical professor of medicine, University of Washington, Seattle
Reporting gives insight into clinical research
Your articles on events at the Hutch are extraordinary. I have never seen reporting with such insight into the vagaries of clinical research. I am sure this work will be considered for a Pulitzer Prize. It saddens me to think that this type of behavior goes on at the Hutch and at
other highly regarded institutions. I believe that these facts will shake the confidence of the average American in the sanctity of the medical-research establishment. I know I used to be a believer. I hope years from now, clinical research will be safer, with more and better informed consent yet still pursued with the same passion that has led, in many instances, to
the miraculous improvements in medicine that many of us enjoy today.
Andrew W. Walter, M.D., Wilmington, Del.
Those who treat patients will look more closely at practice
I am an Oncology Certified Nurse and have worked in the oncology field for
over 12 years. While I support the Hutch and the research that takes place
there in the advancement of cancer research and a search for a cure, I do
not support the activities that took place at the Hutch with regards to the
two clinical trials that took place there from 1980-current.
I experience the need for patient informed consent on a daily basis in my
job. It is critical to the patient and their families that they fully
understand all the risks, benefits, etc., regarding any treatment from surgery
to chemotherapy, etc. At times, that information is distributed from us, the
nurses, long after the physician has seen the patient. It is my practice to
be sure that the patient fully consents to a procedure, even before I allow
that procedure to occur. And if there is any question, I let the physician
I think that many things will change as a result of your series, for which I
personally thank you. One thing that it will certainly bring to the minds of
those who treat patients on a daily basis is to look at their practice, and
be sure that "all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed."
Once again...well done! Thank you.
Kathy Wiederhold R.N., O.C.N.
Seattle Times' reports credible
I have read with considerable interest "Uninformed Consent: What patients at 'The Hutch' weren't told about the experiments in which they died."
As a member of the Human Subjects Review Committee during April 1983, I expressed significant concern about Protocol 126 for T-cell depletion of donor marrow for patients about to undergo bone-marrow transplantation involving use of monoclonal antibodies reinforced by enzymes. Neither my training nor my clinical experience qualified me as an oncologist, but having been involved with clinical research in cardiology at the UW School of Medicine, I had substantial experience with ethical reviews of experimental protocols involving my area of expertise. As The Seattle Times properly reported I was disturbed by the evidence available to the Human Subjects Review Committee that one of the antibodies in another study was associated with occurrence of unexpected new cancers. Hence I felt obliged to point out that the document for informed consent should at least indicate that significant adverse effects of such therapy ought to be known to patients considering this form of cancer treatment. My approval of this experimental protocol was subject to the investigators establishing rigorous criteria to stop such treatment of patients immediately if problems occurred. Unfortunately, according to The Seattle Times, the recommendation was not adopted and the subsequent review committee was not informed. My appointment to the committee was not continued, either. For me that assignment was the most difficult, frustrating and unsatisfactory of all the professional committee involvements I have had over the course of four decades. It is also disturbing now to discover from reading the Times that 20 of 82 (24 percent) of patients treated by Protocol 126 and its variations have subsequently had graft failure (instead of the expected 1 percent), and 80 (or 97 percent) have died. Furthermore, a final report of this protocol was never written.
Thus I find the published reports in The Seattle Times credible. Also, I think this series represents an outstanding example of responsible investigative journalism, and I hope Duff Wilson and David Heath as well as The Seattle Times get appropriate recognition with awarding of the Pulitzer Prize in journalism.
I recognize that some of the doctors and staff at the Hutch feel very defensive, but the former display arrogance rather than humility while the latter may not fully understand the responsibilities involved in the role of Human Subjects Review Committees or Institutional Review Boards for protection of patients rather than of profits.
Finally I commend the courage of the paper to publish such a comprehensive review and particularly the Editorial comment in the Sunday Times for March 18. In time, the proper reputation of the Hutch will be restored, and patients will be better informed and have the necessary confidence that they will receive the best of ethical medical treatment from this institution.
Robert A. Bruce, M.D., professor emeritus of medicine, University of Washington, Seattle
Evidence supports allegations
The Seattle Times on March 25 included two letters discussing the Hutchinson's "Uninformed Consent." Dr. Robert Bruce, who had actually participated in the review process that was designed to protect patients, confirmed the report by Wilson and Heath that committee members who had objected to the protocols were ignored and replaced.
Dr. Blau argued that since the Hutch had done much good that the Times should not have published the indictment of some of the senior staff physicians because it would upset family members of the deceased. If society should embrace this doctrine, all sorts of misdeeds would be suppressed, preventing reform.
Without prior knowledge of the circumstances, I approached the articles the way I would perform peer review for an article submitted for publication to a medical journal. I found that the allegations were supported by specific names, dates and numerical outcomes. In short, the series represented a highly professional and believable indictment of a few physicians at the Hutch who cut corners on fully informing their subjects of the risks, and who continued experimental protocols in spite of adverse effects, including unexpected deaths. I conclude that these reporters, and Drs. Pesando and Kaplan, have done a considerable service to medicine in Seattle, particularly for cancer patients, and ultimately, for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Warren Guntheroth, M.D., professor of pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle
Series scapegoats the successful
In your series of articles "Uninformed Consent," you place heavy emphasis on the relationship between money and crime or corruption. However, the fact that Robert Nowinski helped some of the Fred Hutchinson scientists become millionaires does not mean that either he, or all of those scientists contributed to the wrongdoings toward the patients undergoing the experimental therapy. Yes, they may have been financially motivated, but what do Bob Nowinski or David Blech have to do with the violations of the experimental usage of the drugs in question? To say that the lure of money, or the wealth itself makes people into criminals is like saying that beauty turns a woman into a prostitute. And what does David Blech's father being a rabbi have to do with the entire story? Why are those facts savored, as if they add anything to the fact that people died because of physicians' zeal to make a big discovery (granted, inexcusably neglecting the interests of their patients). If the ability to make money is considered the source of all evil by the authors of the article, then, perhaps, the violence of the poor kids during the Mardi Gras "festivities" should also be attributed to someone else's wealth? Instead of looking right in our backyard for the real problems of race, violence, and consistent impoverishment of the Seattle middle class (those who didn't make it to the Microsoft, or other dot-coms),The Seattle Times writers cater to the basest of instincts, to the lowest common denominator - the envy toward someone's success, and the scapegoating of the successful. Bob Nowinski, David Blech, and others whose names have been dragged through the rough tongues of journalists, have one thing in common: they have become, at early points in their lives, financially successful. And, indeed, we need some fresh blood in the papers, besides Bill Gates - after all, who doesn't love to hate the rich? And isn't the Seattle Times also financially motivated when it publishes articles in poor taste that will appeal to the wealth-scorning majority who refuse to take responsibility for their own lives, always blaming someone else? But, of course, who wants to talk about responsibility in this paper that has endorsed George W. Bush, while still patting itself on the back for being liberal-minded? A rhetorical question, indeed....
Irina Masinovsky, Seattle
Where was the watchdog?
Having spent 15 years been involved in various levels of clinical cancer care, including pharmaceutical research, I was saddened to read these articles. The FHCRC name has always been associated with cutting-edge technology and first-rate care. "The Hutch" has always been the place to turn to when the "standard therapies" are not good enough for a particularly tough case. That shining image has become tainted, the heartfelt efforts of many of medical professionals who have not succumbed to the temptation of personal riches is now cast under suspicion. Thousands of people have been helped by "The Hutch" and I know that thousands more will follow, but for those 82 brave participants in Protocol 126, and Kathryn Hamilton and her companions on Protocol 681, it would seem that the promises of that image were fodder for a few who had become blinded to their own fallibility by greed and ambition. I would also ask, where was the FDA in all of this? Where was America's pharmaceutical watchdog during these trials?
Judy Ferraz, RN, OCN, Tacoma
'The Hutch' is a research hospital
Today's cover story about the unfortunate lady dying from her cancer treatment reminded me again why I don't subscribe. The Hutch is a research hospital. When you are admitted, you are a research subject, not a patient. In my experience, The Hutch's only failing is being vague about the impact treatment will have. Without a doubt, if I had known then what I know now, there's no way I would have done it. But it wouldn't make a difference to most; look around the waiting room and you'll see The Hutch represents the last hope for those who aren't keen to die just yet. As for ethics, I'm grateful that you're wise enough to pass judgment. I'm certainly not. I do know, however, that I'm still alive (1 in 20) and treatments pioneered by The Hutch serve humanity. As for the lady who died during treatment, her experience demonstrates again that the only person who will truly safeguard your interests is you.
Jason Osgood, Seattle
No authority is immune from scrutiny
I am a medical oncologist in private practice, 20 years in the specialty. I often advise patients about the potential role of clinical trials, and have long been suspicious and a public critic of the sullying effect of industry on academic research.
My impression based on the data as presented is (allowing that legal due process is yet to be served) that there has been not only ethical misconduct but criminal liability as well.
No authority, however revered, is immune from scrutiny. I applaud your diligence.
Dennis Morgan, M.D., Enfield, Conn.
Doctors demonstrated arrogance
Thank you for publishing this important article. It seems to me that some of these doctors demonstrate incredible arrogance and disregard for the health and lives of decent human patients. They seem to compete against each other to gain power, money and fame, and ignore the human cost. The statement from one doctor that "I don't have time to revisit that issue - I don't see how doing so would benefit me or the Hutch," is simply incredible in its arrogant disregard for human life and dignity.
Erik Brooks, Seattle
'Hutch' does much good
April 6 marks my 17 years post-transplant (1984). My transplant was performed at The Hutch. Prior to the transplant, at the consult prior to admit, I believe the risks and benefits were well explained to me. The stack of paperwork and consent forms were phenomenal. Each part of the treatment, I felt was well explained and in some cases I had the option of turning down being part of a case study. The BMT was my elective and not forced on me. I believe what The Hutch does is truly good and that with every unfortunate death, many future lives are saved as well as with every success. We forget that at one time leukemia was a 100 percent fatal disease. My condolences go out to all the families for their losses and hope and pray that someday no one has to lose a loved one to cancer.
Annette Perry, Pacific
Report is sensational
I find your five-part series on Uninformed Consent appalling and extremely socially irresponsible. You are sensationalizing a topic that is of a very sensitive nature to extremely vulnerable patients/families and only presenting one side. You are doing a huge disservice to the citizens of Seattle and/or anyone who reads the Times. The tactics you are employing are fear tactics dissuading people from participating in trials that could save their lives. Medical science has revolutionized technologies specifically to improve longevity and quality of life. With it, our average lifespan is now well into the seventies; without it, the average lifespan was half that. I cancelled my annual subscription for this reason.
Jill Anderson, Seattle
Reader plans to rethink treatment
Thank you for this expose which nevertheless leaves me shattered. I was recently thrilled to be told by my doctors at Auckland Hospital Hematology Department that I qualify for a place in a worldwide study run by the Hutch. It is to be a mini-allogeneic transplant for myeloma, a rare type of blood/marrow cancer. Through my reading on the condition and links with many people through an Internet support group, I already knew of the high regard in which the Hutch is held in the field of stem-cell transplants. I thought I was lucky to be part of a trial run by the Hutch. Some serious re-thinking of my treatment options is in order, and I thank you for your comprehensive and high quality investigative journalism.
Sandra Jennings, Auckland, New Zealand
Article gripping, chilling
As the youngest son of a recipient of a bone-marrow transplant and experimental treatment at The Hutch, I found this article to be gripping and chilling. My Mom had lymphoma in 1990 and went to The Hutch as the best possible treatment. While there she agreed to participate in an experimental treatment, although not one of the ones discussed in the articles. Everything went well and afterwards she was fine. Until a year or two later when her cancer returned with a vengeance. Suddenly the face of The Hutch changed. While there getting the treatments, she knew everybody's name and it seemed everybody knew and cared for her. When the cancer returned, she no longer existed in the eyes of The Hutch because she was a failure for their research and they had no use for her since she wasn't substantiating that research. Thank God that more standard radiation and chemotherapy treatments from her local oncologist seems to have kept her cancer in remission. She's now 69 and I'm sure thanks God daily for the years she's had cancer free. I don't know for sure how she feels about her treatment at The Hutch and I'm afraid to show her the articles for fear of causing undue worry.
Chris Becker, Seattle
Safeguards were disregarded
Shock, absolute shock. All the supposed safeguards to protect patients were disregarded. No one listened when an honest doctor tried to do something. I am a cancer patient. I have multiple myeloma. I have thought about participating in a clinical trial. This has made my decision for me. It certainly destroyed any trust I had in the Hutch as a myeloma center.
Joan Lalonde, Potsdam, N.Y.
Oversight needed at 'Hutch'
In 1999 I had a peripheral blood stem-cell transplant for leukemia at the Hutch. From my perspective, they are a premier organization. My treatment was severe, but to date, successful. I would certainly go back for additional treatment if necessary. The staff were exceptionally well-trained and dedicated. Your articles are very sobering. I believe what you have written could have happened. Dr. Thomas is spoken of in revered terms. The results of his research in transplants certainly have been responsible for my return to health. But I can imagine it would not be easy to question his opinion. For me this points out that at the Hutch, as well as every other organization I know of, there needs to be oversight for the decisions of the organization. In for-profit organizations, this is the role of the shareholders and regulating agencies. In not-for-profit organizations who have so much power over their patients, from both the patients general inability to understand the medicine of the proposed treatment, including any clinical trials and the patients emotional instability when making these decisions, there need to be safeguards established. Maybe federal agency oversight - not a great idea - or independent (non-Hutch employees or want-to-be employees) sitting on the IRB. I hope this will not diminish the funding to the Hutch as they do some extraordinary and life-saving research. But I do hope this will cause them to open up and re-think how these issues are addressed. I always believed they were looking out for my best interests. It's frightening to think that may not have been true.
Barbara Miller, Seattle
Medicine has advanced over the years
I think it is very unfortunate that you focus so negatively on an institution that has for years tried to abolish cancer. Medicine was much different 20 years ago and standards have evolved with new and improved information. To publish this series of articles seems to say that the center is not devoted to good medicine and medical practices. I disagree.
Joshua Elvins, Seattle
Patients should pay attention to care
Thank you for this thorough, shocking report on an institution's errors in judgment. We will still all respect the Hutch for its work, but perhaps each of us might pay more attention to the intricacies of the care we are offered. My mother is currently undergoing another round of chemo after a failed remission for ovarian cancer. I know how much I value every day that she is given to live. If she had participated in a trial similar to this (aware that the protocol was for blood cancers), I would have been incredibly saddened and angered to have time stolen from her life by the very people she trusted willingly to prolong her life.
Helen Schwartz, Bremerton
Hutch's response appalling
I find the report very disturbing, and I find the letter to the Times from The Hutch quite appalling, in that there is no mention of the people who died due to the experiment and there is no mention of what steps have been taken by The Hutch to prevent anything like this from happening again. I have been donating for several years to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, but I am not sure I'm willing to support the institution (and have my company match my donation) unless I see The Hutch come forth with an apology to all the families of those people who died, and with a clear policy that forbids any conflict of interest for its staff and members.
Angela Viesse, Redmond
Patient's family shocked
Becky Wright was my cousin. We grew up together in Knoxville, Tenn. Becky, her sister, my other cousins and my sister were very close. I remember that she and her sister went into this program with great enthusiasm expecting positive results. We are all dismayed, appalled and shocked that anyone would engage in such behavior for personal gain. As a member of the legal profession, I would like for those persons involved in this "experiment" to know that Becky's family intends to pursue all avenues of redress that may be available.
W. Joe Mize, Lake Charles, La.
Times' series is irresponsible
Your series of articles on "The Hutch" has triggered a full range of emotions. Let me sum them up this way: Irresponsible! I find that you have taken events that occurred 20 years ago and "spun" them into an inappropriate attack on one of this area's most valuable assets. I am not defending "The Hutch" because of its contributions. Those are well-known. Rather, I am appalled at the irresponsibility of your basic charges. First, that "people died from these experiments." Really? Not surprising when you recognize that "The Hutch" is a research center dealing in experimental drugs. Unfortunately, people do die when new drugs are tested. That is how we progress. People died when bone marrow transplants were being developed at "The Hutch," but how many lives are saved each year because of those experiments? As I understand it, the initial research on Protocol 126 has led to beneficial breakthroughs directly attributable to those early experiments. Secondly, you charge that there were conflicts of interest between "The Hutch," the researchers and Genetic Systems. Yet your articles only allege monetary benefit; it fails to show that the drugs specifically used in Protocol 126 benefited Genetic Systems directly. You state that just being associated with "The Hutch" benefited the company. Well, wasn't that the idea of the federal bill? Allow companies to partner so that corporate resources can aid research institutions in developing procedures and drugs that benefit humanity? I fail to see the harm. One final criticism: Why on earth did you have to take the front page and nearly 1 1/2 inside pages on Monday to repeat the charges you made on Sunday? Perhaps you just like to see your own words in print. Certainly, there were other fallacies in your article. Where, for example, was there an opportunity to quote those who could counter your charges? Saying that Dr. Thomas and Dr. Day refused to comment is insufficient. You also negatively slant the federal and state investigations without fully reporting their findings. The Times is supposed to be a responsible publication. After reading your first two articles, my sense is that you felt responsibility only to yourself and a possible Pulitzer Prize by unfairly vilifying an institution that provides so much benefit to all of us.
Burton Green, Seattle
Hutch response doesn't address issues
This is a terrific job of investigative reporting and organizing information as well. The Hutchinson center's inadequate and almost indifferent response reinforces impressions of their culpability. It is lacking in content, based on generalizations, and the reference to the biotech company standing to make little money were the trials successful patently absurd. The principles of corrupt association and financial interests were not addressed at all. I find this absolutely unbelievable.
Toni Sammons Oliveto, La Conner
Reporting on 'Hutch' not objective
While I find the Hutch story interesting, I don't find the journalism very balanced or objective. I don't understand how it can be newsworthy that out of what must be thousands of cancer patients participating in clinical trials at the Hutch each year, that several dozen died earlier than we would like over the past fifteen years. Clinical trials are exactly that - sometimes they work sometimes they do not. I don't believe that patients volunteering for these tests were ignorant of the extreme risks, whether written or not. Didn't they know they had cancer? Also, I fail to see a problem with the alleged financial conflicts of interest. Why shouldn't researchers have a financial stake in the success of a study? Isn't this good incentive to come up with treatments that actually work? It seems the reporters of this story may harbor a conflict of interest far more sinister than the Hutch researchers.
Greg Koehler, Redmond
Series is example of sensationalism
I am shocked at your recounting of these sad, but several-years-old, stories, enlarged and embellished with lurid detail. Your effort to create a story from these tragedies is an appalling example of sensationalism. It appears that the main purpose to be served is your own self-interested idea of "investigatory journalism" which nevertheless creates doubt and fear in people at their most vulnerable by undermining this medical institution. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has over the years saved thousands of lives of people who, like myself, would undoubtedly not have survived had we not undergone a transplant at Hutch. If only one person who might be saved is frightened off and chooses not to go forward with a transplant at Hutch because of your inflammatory articles, then you must hold yourselves responsible. This is irresponsible journalism at its worst and you should be ashamed.
Beverly Dahlin, Seattle
Times just trying to sell newspapers
It is extremely disheartening to read that The Seattle Times is more interested in selling papers with screaming headlines than providing thorough, contemplative, and balanced news reporting. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is one of the most respected research institutions in the country and an essential element to the Seattle community and economy. There is no doubt that in caring for thousands of extremely ill patients with experimental protocols, some will unfortunately suffer adverse events - even death. But the reporting of only these types of outcomes, while terrific for selling papers, sells the public interest short. The consequences of such inflammatory and erroneous reporting are staggering. It could lead to decreased participation in clinical trials, decreased funding for medical research, and many patients declining optimal therapy for cancer. Each of these eventualities will give rise to far more deaths and disability than the extremely rare events to which your thoughtless series allude.
Corey Casper, Seattle
Coverage demonstrates thoroughness
My sister is undergoing treatment for uterine cancer at Hutch or otherwise I probably wouldn't have been told by a friend about this story. Her cancer is totally unrelated to this issue. My comment is simply how incredibly impressed I am with the thoroughness and courage that your article revealed. It is one of the most dramatic, absorbing and sad stories imaginable. I simply wish to give my heartfelt appreciation for the willingness of your editorial board to give the reporters the necessary time and money to get to the bottom of this unfathomable story. The repercussions will be felt worldwide.
Joan Boggs, Glenview, Ill.
Past mistakes should be corrected
I work at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and am proud of being a member of the institute. For that reason, your articles are stunning. On the other hand, I strongly feel that the FHCRC may have made serious mistakes in the past, because the substantial amount of documents presented seem to support your claims and contradict the explanations or excuses that our officials have given us. There must be only one truth. I hope we will find it soon and if the FHCRC made such mistakes in the past, I think we should correct the problems immediately.
Fred Hung, Seattle
'Hutch' has saved many lives
I am disappointed with the articles by about the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The article fails to mention the thousands of people who are alive today thanks to The Hutch. You should be writing articles praising the great work at the Hutch, not trying to sensationalize fallacies. Why would you choose to denigrate a Seattle treasure? We should all be proud to have The Hutch in our backyard.
Tamara Stevens, Bellevue
Reader salutes Dr. Pesando
I look up to Dr. John Pesando for having a conscience and taking actions to stop this type of experimental work from happening. There needs to be more people in this world like him. To take the time to try and fight for something that he believed was wrong and risking humans lives. I salute him in his efforts and I hope these type activities will not be able to happen in the future.
Lorraine Neff, Seattle
Extensive investigation needed
After reviewing all of the provided documentation, it's very clear that this investigation is both needed and extensive. THIS is what a newspaper is all about. It appears that the only people who didn't fall asleep at the wheel are The Seattle Times, Dr. Pesando and the victims' survivors. In reading the statement provided by the Hutch, it's easy to see that the high cost of medical care includes the expense of quality, but ineffective, spin doctors. I'm interested in how many knee-jerk investigations our government will conduct?
Bill Sheehan, Mill Creek
Conflict-of-interest issues apparent
I find it very disturbing that people were used as an experiment for a procedure that was obviously so flawed. My wife and I had a very close friend who had a bone-marrow transplant at the Hutch at about the time this was going on. It disturbs us greatly that she may very well have had all the pertinent facts kept from her, and that because of this she could have made a bad decision, if in fact she was part of this protocol. Sheila did not survive her cancer. At the very least, there appears to be major conflict-of-interest issues, but even more disturbing is what seems to be a complete disregard for the patient's right to ALL information. I also find Dr. Thomas' attitude that no one has a right to question his research very troubling. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the results of your investigation.
Ray Fox, Snohomish
Patient care is top conern at 'Hutch'
As a former Hutch employee, I know that patient care is the foremost concern of the center. The Times can do much better than articles presented in this tone.
Charles Cerveny, Seattle
Trial outcome was tragic
As a retired American Cancer Society lifetime research professor, I recognize familiar aspects of the abuse of power in the scientific community. What makes this story particularly tragic is that it cost the lives of so many misled patients without any benefit to science.
Hans Noll, Ph.D., Seattle
Checks and balances needed
How can I convey the sadness I feel for what has been discovered at The Hutch? Though I am not a scientist, I spent six years working at the Center, believing that each employee contributed uniquely to the cause of bettering humanity. I still believe that. People at Fred Hutchinson are devoted, kind, caring people. Please do not allow the alleged ethical violations of a few distort your vision of The Hutch. Thousands of its employees work extremely hard to help others and will continue to do so. A system of checks and balances held outside of the political realm of Center leadership seems in order to prevent potential abuses of power that may have occurred in this case.
Hilari Anderson, Seattle
Dr. Pesando an example to follow
I cannot believe that this has been allowed to continue without a thorough and proper investigation for so many years. These people (enrolled in) Protocol 126 believed in their doctors. They trusted that they were genuinely being cared for in the best possible way.
I thank Dr. Pesando for being so courageous as to keep up the fight to protect human lives. He is example of what a doctor should be and of what others should follow.
Jackie Williams, Enumclaw
Reader believes in 'do no harm'
I have only ever heard good things about the Fred Hutchinson Center. Maybe you missed something. Every clinical that is running at every hospital has its downside and every one of us know that. Maybe this will make things more reliable for the rest of us and the doctors more aware we are humans with hopes and wishes. I believe in "Do No Harm," I hope Hutchinson feels the same way.
Donna West, Bozeman, Mont.
Times' series may cause more harm than trial
Shame on The Seattle Times for its lack of ethics. The Times is attacking the Hutch for serious protocol violations that occurred and were voluntarily corrected over seven years ago.
Over the past year, I have had both my mother and a good friend treated for advanced cancer at the Hutch. They were treated with a great deal of respect and compassion. My mother died several months ago. She participated in two studies, in which she was told frankly that they were experimental. I feel in no way that the Hutch was trying to mislead her just to line their pockets with pharmaceutical company money. However, due to a highly advanced technique of stem-cell replacement pioneered by the Hutch, my good friend has survived and is now living cancer-free.
Your sensational headlines will likely impede future grants and studies. So what will be the end result of your sensational, circulation-building headlines? I believe the Seattle Times will cause more people to lose their lives to cancer than were ever harmed in the Protocol 126 study. I encourage anyone who has survived cancer, or who has lost a loved one to cancer, to cancel their subscription to The Seattle Times.
Angela Jean, Kirkland
Reports disheartening to patients
I am dismayed at the irresponsible reporting of the ramblings of an obviously disgruntled former employee. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has saved tens of thousands of lives thanks to good research. It is especially disheartening for the patients and their families to have to hear this. How regretful that the Center must now focus efforts to protect reputation, when there are patients to care for and research to conduct.
Mary Joy Lopez, Seattle
Times' stories demonstrate courage
The Times has shown a high degree of editorial courage in covering this very disturbing story. I found the initial articles plausible, well-documented and clearly written. You have earned back a good measure of trust with this reader to accurately report the news in our community without giving undue deference to the sacred lions dwelling within our midst. I particularly appreciated the access to the background materials you have included in this site.
Ann Simpson, Seattle
Situation needed to be exposed
Thank you for writing this article. I am sure that there were risks associated with publishing this story, but a situation such as this outrage at The Hutch had to be exposed. You have done your jobs well, and in doing so have made those to whose care many lives are entrusted accountable, as they should have been from the beginning.
Camille Roskamp, Kent
Actions at 'Hutch' unconscionable
I was completely appalled and devastated by what I read in The Seattle Times this morning regarding Protocol 126. To think that something like this can happen in the United States of America at such a highly respected institution as "The Hutch" is unconscionable. My husband suffered terribly during his two bone-marrow transplants, and to find out this experimental treatment may have caused him even more pain and agony in his final days is very disturbing! I wonder if any of the doctors involved in this would have subjected their loved ones, or themselves, to these clinical trials had they been stricken with cancer? Something must be done to make sure this is not allowed to happen ever again!
Peggy Draheim, widow of Dr. John Draheim, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Those involved in protocol should be punished
I was a patient at Fred Hutch from November 1997 until March 1998. During that time I had a stem-cell transplant for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). My actual transplant date was January 1998. I am three years' post transplant, and so far no sign of my cancer returning. I received excellent care at Fred Hutchinson. The doctors, nurses, and staff were very compassionate and caring. I was very disturbed to read your story about Protocol 126. I hope the people involved in this protocol are punished for their actions.
Gary Campbell, Lakewood, Colo.
'Hutch' leaders must be accountable
Thank you for your excellent work. Although the Hutch may do a lot of good, its leaders must understand that they are accountable for their actions. Given the explosive nature of the actions involved, I appreciate the outstanding documentation you have provided to support your investigation. Your story is particularly relevant to me and to my wife. She has incurable cancer, and may find herself in an experimental program at some time in the future. She would be willing to take a chance on an experimental program, but she and I would both insist on knowing the complete truth about the program in advance. In our opinion, misrepresentation or failure to disclose would be criminal. We are dependent on the honesty and good intentions of the doctors who have been entrusted with her care. At a minimum, any doctor who violates that trust should not be allowed to continue the practice of medicine.
Larry Morrison, Bellevue
Patients must be fully informed
Thank you for taking what will probably be an unpopular stance in the community. As an registered nurse, I have to review with newly admitted patients their rights in the hospital. One of the key aspects of the "rights sheet" is their knowledge that they won't be used in any experimental tests without their full consent. But is that being done? Am I a pawn for a group of corporately influenced physicians that might be working at cross-purposes to the Hippocratic oath?
Michael Kenny, R.N., Mercer Island
Reader feels deceived
I was completely shocked, saddened, and disgusted to read of The Hutch and physicians' behavior in the paper today. I have been a financial supporter of The Hutch, as well as a family/patient volunteer, and feel personally deceived and offended.
I realize the behavior of these doctors does not reflect all of the folks at the Hutch, but the fact that the Hutch itself was invested in the same financial conflict of interest is appalling. It also makes me wonder how much more of this goes on all over the place that just doesn't get investigated and revealed. Just gross and very sad. Especially sad for the families of these victims and all patients who have died there who now surely must wonder.
Kathryn Rupchock, Bellevue
Nobel Prize winner would not have such low standards
I read your article on "Uninformed Consent" with considerable interest. Although it's evident (in retrospect) that the principal investigators "blew-it" scientifically, to imply as the article repeatedly does that they were ignoring bad outcomes and letting patients die, for financial reasons, is irresponsible. I only know Dr. Thomas by his reputation and refuse to believe that a Nobel Prize winner would have such low moral standards.
Hector C. Aldape, M.D., Mercer Island
Series is poor journalism
Your series on the blood-cancer experiment is poor journalism. Do you honestly believe that the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is in the business of making money from naive patients? Experimental, alternative treatments will be risky, but they lead to new and better cancer therapies that can benefit many more people. Clinical trials are routinely reviewed by funding sources and independent researchers. Does The Seattle Times have the scientific expertise and background to review this research objectively? It is The Seattle Times who hopes to benefit financially from this story, in placing an "alarming" headline on the front page to sell more papers.
Barbara Williams, Seattle
Financial ties ultimate conflict of interest
I am deeply troubled after reading this article this morning. I find it unconscionable that an institution as revered as The Hutch would allow this to go on. Medicine is certainly not an exact science, but to allow doctors to experiment on human beings with drugs in which they have a financial interest is exactly the wrong thing to do. This appears to be the ultimate case of conflict of interest and it is unacceptable. I know The Hutch has saved thousands of lives, but after reading this article I have lost the respect for the institution that I once had.
My mother was treated and ultimately cured of leukemia (at age 70+) in Chicago 10 years ago in an experimental program. My brothers and I discussed bringing her to Seattle for treatment but decided against it. After reading this article, I thank God for our decision!
This is the first time I have responded to a newspaper article, and I would like to thank you for giving us the whole truth. Keep up the good work.
Bob Black, Renton
Who can we trust?
I think it is criminal what was done to these people. They trusted their doctors, unbeknownst to them that they were more interested in making money on their suffering. I think the state's attorney general should look into this case and if possible seek criminal charges against the doctors and hospital. If we cannot trust our doctors when we are seriously ill, who can we trust?
Wayne Finch, Auburn, N.Y.