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Cancer center, after scandal, names new executive

John Cleveland joined Moffitt Cancer Center in 2014.

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  • | 1:30 p.m. May 1, 2020
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Courtesy. John Cleveland joined Moffitt Cancer Center in 2014.
Courtesy. John Cleveland joined Moffitt Cancer Center in 2014.
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TAMPA — Moffitt Cancer Center named John Cleveland center director, a promotion from the interim position he's held since December, after several executives resigned due to alleged violations of conflict of interest rules in China.

Cleveland, who joined Moffitt in 2014 as associate center director of Basic Science, was also named executive vice president at Moffitt, according to a statement. Tampa-based Moffitt is one of 51 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country and the only one based in Florida, the release adds.

The statement from Moffitt on Cleveland’s position didn’t mention any of the resignations. Those departures, announced Dec. 18, included Moffitt Cancer Center Director Dr. Thomas Sellers and CEO Dr. Alan List, both nationally known cancer researchers. The resignations stemmed from an internal review of Moffitt team members’ collaborations with research institutions in China; in 2018 the National Institutes of Health warned all its grant recipients of foreign efforts to influence or compromise U.S. researchers. Moffitt, according to a statement after the resignations, found several compliance violations.

Sellers, in a defamation lawsuit filed against Moffitt and others in Hillsborough County Civil Court, denied the allegations. “The complaint alleges that Moffitt Cancer Center wrongly forced him to resign, and then compounded the damage by knowingly making false statements against Dr. Sellers, causing severe damage to his reputation and career,” read a statement from Sellers’ attorneys, John Morgan and Brandon Scheele with Morgan & Morgan, after the lawsuit was filed Feb. 13.

Cleveland, meanwhile, brings 40 years of research experience to his role, including work with the National Cancer Institute, the federal agency charged with leading the National Cancer Program, the release states. He will be responsible for continuing to elevate Moffitt’s research enterprise and reputation for world-class bench-to-bedside science.

“Moffitt is built on a strong tradition of research excellence, which fuels our quest to find a cure for cancer,” Moffitt Institute board Chairman Timothy Adams says in the release. “John Cleveland has a proven track record and will no doubt strengthen our innovative discoveries to continually improve the standard of care for our cancer patients.”

Cleveland will set the strategy and vision for the research enterprise, overseeing 100 research labs and 175 faculty personnel at Moffitt. He will serve as principal investigator of Moffitt’s Cancer Center Support Grant, which brings in some $3 million in NCI funding by delivering trans-disciplinary science and driving impact locally, regionally and beyond. Cleveland will also focus on recruitment, mentoring and training, reporting to the president and CEO of Moffitt, the release states.


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