Dr. Loic Le Marchand recently published an opinion piece on the UH Cancer Center that contained many factual errors. We, as senior leadership at the center, would like to provide the following corrections.

RE: “(Michele) Carbone, lacking any relevant administrative experience, was named as interim director in October 2008 and selected as director in August 2009…”

FACT: Dr. Carbone was appointed permanent director following a national search and was selected from 22 applicants.

UH Cancer Center Director Dr. Michele Carbone.  1/14/14

UH Cancer Center Director Dr. Michele Carbone.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) validated Dr. Carbone as an outstanding choice in the 2012 review. “His own excellent research program and institutional growth over a short period of time reflects strong leadership for the Center. His efforts have translated into recruitment of a host of new individuals for the programs and leadership as well as bringing together hospital partners into a clinical consortium.” (For details, see page 26 of the NCI 2012 review.)

RE: “One example of Carbone’s recklessness is his idea, presented to the Legislature, to bring Chinese pharmaceutical companies to UHCC to help with a projected budget deficit, rather than seeking additional sources of research funding that would be the natural remedy for a research institute.”

FACT: Many cancer centers have formed mutually beneficial partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. We feel in these times of reduced extramural funding that looking for creative new ways to reduce the UHCC’s dependence on the state of Hawaii should be explored and that this is just one way to do that.

RE: “We urge the UH administration to conduct independent audits of the functioning of the UHCC. We also ask for a release of an anonymous ’360 evaluation’ of Carbone as director, executed by UH over a year ago.”

FACT: There has never been an anonymous 360 evaluation of Dr. Carbone to our knowledge. However, the External Advisory Board evaluates the UHCC and its Director annually. The EAB reports are shared with UHCC faculty and staff and with the NCI. The NCI also evaluates the UHCC every 5 years.

The report is sent to a parent committee that reviews all NCI-designated cancer centers. Dr. Carbone’s leadership and performance was rated “outstanding” by the NCI. “He has the requisite authorities and an outstanding background of accomplishments and significant relevant clinical and research expertise to enact the required oversight of the Cancer Center…”

Over the past three years the UH Cancer Center has been evaluated by over 30 peer reviewers. These experts have all made very positive evaluations of the Cancer Center and its leadership.

RE: “Not surprisingly, our opinion was ignored and the situation at UHCC has continued to deteriorate with additional faculty grievances filed against Carbone and an operating budget deficit of $10 million.”

FACT: Eight grievances have been filed against Dr. Carbone before Dec. 31, 2013 and four more thereafter. These 8 grievances were filed by 5 faculty members, including the former UHCC director and the former deputy director. Of these grievances, “No cause” was found for two and one was adjudicated in Dr. Carbone’s favor.

RE: “Before Carbone, UHCC had been able to renew this designation multiple times over 20 years, largely because of its cohesiveness, its unique research focus on Hawaii’s multiethnic population and environment, and the strength of its population science program.”

FACT: Up until 2005 the Cancer Center had renewed its NCI designation once. (It was originally obtained in 1996). In 2005 the UHCC received the failing score of Very Good (an NCI score of “very good” = a failing grade) and was put on probation.

In 2008 the UHCC failed to submit the renewal application because the number of funded UHCC faculty members in each program did not meet minimum NCI requirements, and we had failed to build new facilities. (See Webinar.)

RE: “UH further argues that it has to give him significantly more resources to renew the prestigious cancer center designation because NCI has raised its requirements. This is not accurate.”

FACT: The “minimum” NCI requirements to compete for NCI designation were $4 million in grants, three funded investigators per research program in each of a minimum of three research programs. Since 2013 the new guidelines require $10 million in grant funding, three funded investigators per research program with a minimum of five grants, although “successful programs substantially exceed this minimum.” (See the NCI pre-2013 and current guidelines.)

RE: “Carbone’s divisive and autocratic management style has not only created a hostile work environment…”

FACT: The following is excerpted from the UHCC Organizational Assessment:“… there have been two categories of detractors: the first are those who lost power over the Center and who now seek to either regain power and or take revenge on Dr. Carbone; the second are those faculty who could be manipulated by playing on their fears.” Dr. Kim Payton is an organizational psychologist who was hired upon the recommendation of Dr. Gary Ostrander, the former vice chancellor of research and with the full support of the UHCC faculty.

RE: “Carbone is unsuited for the position of a UH research institute director. This was the conclusion of UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple, who twice attempted to remove him as director.”

FACT: It is unclear how Chancellor Apple came to his conclusion. His decision to fire Dr. Carbone was made without input from the majority of the UHCC faculty and lacked transparency. None of the senior leadership was consulted.

The BOR (past and present), UH Presidents (past and present), Dr. Apple’s predecessor, the consortium partners, the Dean of JABSOM, most UHCC faculty and staff are strongly supportive of the work performed by Carbone as director. Dr. Apple’s is the minority opinion. (See preceding paragraph, Webinar and EAB reports.)

RE: “…it is completely unconscionable for UH to again entrust Carbone with the task of leading this effort.”

FACT: The establishment of the Cancer Consortium, the success of the 2012 P30 renewal, the completion of the building, and the recruitment of new faculty are signs of progress made by Dr. Carbone, and evidence that he is able to work with faculty, UH administration, community leaders, and others as a team leader.

Over the past three years the UH Cancer Center has been evaluated by over 30 peer reviewers. These experts have all made very positive evaluations of the Cancer Center and its leadership.

Dr. Le Marchand’s view that cancer research in Hawaii is going down the drain is his alone.

Letters like the one he published in Civil Beat, which contain multiple inaccuracies, only serve to inhibit further progress.

(For supporting information, please look here, under Carbone CV.)

Brian Issell, associate director for Clinical Sciences and Translational Research
Wei Jia, director of Shared Resources
Joe Ramos, director of the Cancer Biology Program
Marcus Tius, UHCC deputy director
James Turkson in Natural Products and Experimental Therapeutics
Thomas Wills, acting director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program
Herbert Yu, director of the Epidemiology Program

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