Prominent Oncologist Allegedly Poisons Her Lover

Bad Cup of Joe

Nick Mulcahy

June 10, 2013

An oncologist at a top cancer center in the United States has allegedly poisoned a fellow oncologist at the center, with whom she was having a relationship.

Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo, MD, a principal investigator in a major breast cancer clinical trial and section head at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, has been charged with the aggravated assault of a fellow staffer, oncologist George Blumenschein, MD.

Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo, 42, allegedly poisoned Dr. Blumenschein with ethylene glycol, a common lab chemical that is also an ingredient in antifreeze and can be fatal.

Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo's lawyer says that she is "completely innocent," according to a statement in multiple news reports.

The oncologist pair had a "casual sexual relationship," according to Dr. Blumenschein in an affidavit filed in the case on May 29.

When they were alone at her place on January 27, Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo served Dr. Blumenschein a cup of coffee that had an "odd taste," he stated in the complaint, which was published online last week in the Houston Chronicle.

Dr. Blumenschein, who prefers his coffee black, questioned Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo about the brew because it tasted "sweet."

She replied that it contained Splenda, an artificial sweetener, and later provided him with a second cup — but only after instructing him to "finish the first cup first."

Dr. Blumenschein, who is a lung cancer researcher and clinician, drank both cups.

Within 4 hours, he reportedly experienced slurred speech, poor balance, and loss of fine motor skills. About 16 hours after the coffee klatch, he was admitted to a hospital emergency department and was diagnosed with central nervous system depression, cardiopulmonary complications, and renal failure. He is under continued care for the kidney injury.

Lab testing revealed results "consistent with ethylene glycol poisoning." The chemical reportedly has a sweet taste.

A medical toxicology report cited in the affidavit said that the acute severe metabolic acidosis found in Dr. Blumenschein was "more likely than not due to ethylene glycol poisoning."

The affidavit also notes that ethylene glycol was not directly found in the blood or urine of Dr. Blumenschein. However, 2 experts quoted point out that the metabolism process would have cleared the substance in the amount of time that transpired between the alleged event and the hospitalization.

An administrator at M.D. Anderson confirmed that ethylene glycol is "present in all the labs" at the facility, according to the affidavit.

Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo, who attended medical school at the Universidad del Cauca in Colombia and moved to the United States to continue her training, has been at M.D. Anderson since 2003, when she was a Susan G. Komen Interdisciplinary Breast Cancer fellow.

Been in the Spotlight Before

Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo, who can be seen in a Komen for the Cure video that takes the viewer through a day in her clinical life, has a significant profile in the world of breast cancer research and clinical trials.

She has had research funded by the heavyweights of oncology: the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the American Society of Clinical Oncology, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Komen for the Cure, the American Association for Cancer Research (Stand Up To Cancer), and the Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research, according to online biographic information.

She is also the author of a blog entitled "31 Days of Impact" on the Komen Web site.

Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo is a principal investigator of a trial that has been described as seeking to "answer one of the most important scientific and clinical questions in breast oncology," according the Breast Cancer Research Foundation Web site.

The trial, known as RxPONDER S1007 (Rx for Positive Node, Endocrine Responsive Breast Cancer), is a phase 3 clinical trial led by the Southwest Oncology Group and carried out by the North American Breast Cancer Group.

The outstanding clinical question is whether chemotherapy benefits patients with node-positive breast cancer who have a low to intermediate Oncotype DX recurrence score.

At M.D. Anderson, Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo is chief of the section of clinical research and drug development in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology. She is also a tenured associate professor in the Department of Systems Biology.

She is a principal investigator of phase 1 clinical trial sponsored by the NCI of the experimental agent MK2206 (Merck) in locally advanced or metastatic solid tumors or metastatic breast cancer and of a phase 1 trial of the agent BYL719 (Novartis) in patients with advanced solid tumors who have an alteration of the PIK3CA gene.

Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo has 119 peer-reviewed published articles listed on her resume on the M.D. Anderson Web site.

Dr. George Blumenschein is an associate professor in the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology at M.D. Anderson. He has been at the cancer center since 2000, when he started as an instructor of medicine.

He is listed as a principal investigator on multiple clinical trials in lung cancer.

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