José Baselga was born in Barcelona on July 3, 1959, and earned his medical and doctoral degrees from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He caught the attention of cancer researchers after participating in a medical fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering, where he worked with Dr. John Mendelsohn in researching the use of monoclonal antibodies in targeting certain proteins associated with aggressive cancers, including lung and breast cancers.
Dr. Larry Norton, a senior vice president at Memorial Sloan Kettering and the medical director of the hospital’s Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center, quickly took an interest in Dr. Baselga and served as an early mentor. “He was an artist,” Dr. Norton recalled, adding that he had “a driving force within him, and he would focus all of his energies on accomplishing what was necessary to fulfill that vision.”
Dr. Baselga returned to Spain in 1996 to found the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona. Under his leadership, the center became an international powerhouse in cancer research, testing targeted cancer therapies in early-stage clinical trials. Dr. Baselga became a well-known figure in Spain.
“Spain was not known in the world as a cancer research place,” Dr. Antoni Ribas, the president of the American Association for Cancer Research, who did his medical residency at Vall d’Hebron just before Dr. Baselga assumed his role there, said in a phone interview. “He put Vall d’Hebron, Barcelona and Spain on the map of cancer research.”
Following a stint from 2010 to 2013 at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was the chief of the division of hematology and oncology, Dr. Baselga returned to Memorial Sloan Kettering in 2013 to become physician in chief and, later, chief medical officer.
He also held several leadership roles in the world of cancer research, including president of the American Association for Cancer Research and editor of Cancer Discovery and other medical journals.
Dr. Baselga resigned from Sloan Kettering in September 2018 under pressure after The Times and ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative journalism outfit, reported that he had failed to disclose millions of dollars in payments from drug and health care companies in dozens of research articles in The New England Journal of Medicine and other publications.