Oncologist Sentenced to 10 Years for Poisoning Colleague

Nick Mulcahy

September 29, 2014

A rising star in the field of breast cancer who last week was found guilty of poisoning a colleague, a fellow oncologist at the renowned University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. The pair was involved in a sexual relationship.

Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo, MD, 43, was accused of spiking the coffee of George Blumenschein, MD, with ethylene glycol, a common lab chemical that is also an ingredient in antifreeze and can be fatal.

Dr. Blumenschein, 50, who has had a formidable career in lung and head and neck cancers, survived the alleged poisoning but reportedly has only about 40% of his kidney function.

Today, the jury decided on the sentence, which includes a $10,000 fine.

On Friday, a jury found Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo guilty of a felony charge — the aggravated assault of a family member.

The charge is more serious than aggravated assault and covers domestic violence in dating relationships.

Ironically, Dr. Blumenschein had no intention of having a family with Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo; she was a "casual sex" partner, he said.

Instead, Dr. Blumenschein was attempting to have a child with his live-in girlfriend of 10 years, Evette Toney, PhD. She is an employee of GlaxoSmithKline. Dr. Blumenschein was a principal investigator in studies sponsored by that company.

During the trial, he acknowledged that he had "cheated" on Dr. Toney.

Dr. Blumenschein also described his kidney problems, as reported elsewhere. "The condition that I have now puts me at increased risk for heart attack and stroke, and I can't take certain medications. My lifespan has been shortened," he reportedly said.

According to news reports, defense lawyers contended that his medical condition could not be irrefutably linked to any coffee he drank with Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo. All evidence was circumstantial, they argued.

The poisoning allegedly happened when the pair was alone at her home on January 27, 2013. Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo served Dr. Blumenschein a cup of coffee that had an "odd taste," he stated in the original complaint.

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 said he drank both cups.

Within 4 hours, he reportedly experienced slurred speech, poor balance, and loss of fine motor skills. About 16 hours later, he was admitted to a hospital emergency department and was diagnosed with central nervous system depression, cardiopulmonary complications, and renal failure.

Sparkling Career

During the trial, multiple patients of Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo testified in her support, calling the Colombian-born physician an outstanding and compassionate clinician, according to news reports.

"She saved my life, and I always felt like she would save a whole lot of lives," said patient Silvia Lieber during the trial's punishment phase last week, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. Lieber called her doctor a "friend and a sister."

As reported by Medscape Medical News, 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 had 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, 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 was also the author of a blog entitled 31 Days of Impact, which was on the Komen Web site.

Dr. Gonzalez-Angulo has been 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 has been chief of the section of clinical research and drug development and an associate professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology. She is also a tenured associate professor in the Department of Systems Biology.


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