The National Cancer Institute gave a New York Medical College scientist a $910,00 grant last year although in 1979 he had resigned from Boston University after some co-workers contended that his treatment results there contained false data, which he continues to deny.
The case will be cited by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) today as a serious example of "lax surveillance" and "tolerance of mismanagement" by the federal agency that spends a billion dollars a year on cancer research, more than the government spends on any other disease.
Hatch, chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, will open a hearing on the cancer institute by charging -- according to a statement released yesterday -- that the institute has repeatedly been slow or reluctant to correct or punish mistakes or mismanagement at several research centers.
The "most significant" incident, Hatch said, took place in 1978 when Dr. Marc Straus -- now at New York Medical College's Westchester County Medical Center -- resigned from Boston University after "a number of doctors and nurses" alleged that data in research that he supervised were false.
Also, said Hatch, it was charged that "dangerous chemicals were administered without patient consent" in many cases in the same project.
Straus said yesterday that the accusations against him were "false" and "maliciously made." He said he will make a statement later this week that "will shed a totally different light on the allegations."
"All the allegations were made by people under disciplinary job action by me," he told The Washington Post last night.
The charges against Straus have never been resolved. Despite this, he was awarded the $910,000 NCI grant to study responses of animal and human cells to cancer chemical. Hatch said NCI officials did not report the accusations to scientists who conducted a "peer review" of Straus' research proposal or NCI'S National Cancer Advisory Board, which screens major grants.
Only last July did NCI order an investigation, still incomplete, of Straus' Boston adtivities.
In doing cancer research, Straus needs Food and Drug Administration approval to use experiemental drugs. In beginning a pending review of his eligibility, Dr. Francis O. Kelsey, director of scientific investigations in the Food and Drug Administration's Bureau of Drugs, wrote Straus last August, saying "we belive you . . . have repeatedly or deliberately submitted false information" to NCI.
Dr. Vincent DeVita Jr., NCI director, is expected to testify today in much the same vein in which he wrote Hatch last Tuesday, saying NCI initially felt that investigations of Straus by Boston University and the Eastern Colleges Oncology Group were sufficient, but "in retrospect I believe" NCI should have investigated promptly.
As for not telling peer reviewers and advisable of the charges, DeVita said that the charges are still unproven and that Straus' new grant, unlike his old one, involves no work with actual patients.
DeVita told The Washington Post last month that "as I look over" past criticisms, "all the things I see have either been corrected or are on their way to being corrected."
Hatch alleged some "cozy relationship[s] and conflicts of interest in grant awards and lack of strong action following several General Accounting Office and Department of Health and Human Services audits. For example, he said, no vigorous action has been taken to retrieve $1.1 million from the University of Nebraska's Eppley Institute, though an HHS auditor found the money "undeserved."