publication date: Dec. 18, 2015

The Year in Review 


As the New Year approaches, we are preparing to revamp our website and launch an app. The work on it is almost done—a January launch seems likely.

In 2015, we got to report some cool stories, win national journalism awards and successfully deflect Amgen’s attack on our First Amendment rights.

My colleague Matthew Bin Han Ong squarely earned the nickname “Scoop” by winning three awards for his coverage of the controversy over power morcellation:

• The first place National Press Club Award in the NPC’s annual journalism competition;

• The Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service in Journalism in the newsletter category;

• A first place 2015 Dateline Award for Excellence in Local Journalism in the newsletter category from the Society of Professional Journalists, Washington, D.C., Professional Chapter.

His series on power morcellation and FDA regulation of medical devices continues in this issue of The Cancer Letter.

The year began with a story I had been waiting to break for well over four years: a whistleblower—a brave medical student named Brad Perez—had warned Duke University administrators about troubles in the lab of its star scientist Anil Potti (The Cancer Letter, Jan. 8).

Had Duke listened to Perez’s warning, it would have avoided a lot of trouble. Duke got a lot of ink in 2015. One highlight was an interview with a Duke patient who disagrees with the university’s assertion that no one was harmed in the trials that utilized fraudulent genomic predictors (The Cancer Letter, May 22).

Duke settled a lawsuit brought by patients who were enrolled in its clinical trials, and Potti received a light penalty in a deal with the Office of Research Integrity (The Cancer Letter, Nov. 13). Potti, who now practices in North Dakota, will not be able to engage in unsupervised research for five years.

Also in 2015, The Cancer Letter had to defend itself against an effort by Amgen Inc. to force me to answer questions related to a 2007 story that sparked a class action suit by investors and triggered a change in FDA regulations of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents.

Judge Amit Mehta, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, quashed a subpoena filed by Amgen that sought information related to my reporting of a story about an important clinical trial showing that patients who received Aranesp did worse than patients who did not. (The Cancer Letter, Sept. 4).

The ruling, dated Aug. 21, is posted here.

Our readership has grown dramatically.

Unless this issue goes viral—which it likely will—this year we will have logged 490,000 visits, a 54 percent increase over the previous year. Page views will be over 1.3 million and the volume of downloads will be over 1,100 gigabytes, nearly 60 percent more than in 2014.

In 2014, we averaged about 12,600 unique visitors a month—this year we averaged over 21,000, an increase of over two-thirds.

These numbers show explosive growth. In 2014, we had 307,350 visits, page views were just under 1.1 million, and 673 GBs were downloaded.

With over 130 institutional subscriptions, the vast majority of cancer centers and pharma companies now have access to our publications. Our coverage and ads placed on our website reach the entire top tier of oncology—the leading healthcare providers, pharma companies, and government agencies.

The number of stories and briefs in each issue of The Cancer Letter and The Clinical Cancer Letter has grown tremendously, thanks to Conor Hale. Conor anchors our coverage of Capitol Hill, our videos, and production of every issue.

Finally, dear reader, if you find yourself in Washington Feb. 2, come to my reading from my debut novel, The Yid, at Politics & Prose. The Yid has nothing to do with oncology. It’s a dark comedy set in Moscow in 1953. If you like things Russian and Shakespeare in Yiddish, a good time will be had.

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