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I-Team: Cancer Research In Jeopardy After Alleged Misuse Of Funds

BOSTON (CBS) – Millions of dollars in federal grant money that was supposed to go to cancer research is missing. A respected cancer research center is now shutting down and scientists say life-saving work is being abandoned.

Scientists at the Center for Cancer Systems Biology are hard at work on groundbreaking research that they hope will one day lead to new treatments.

"It's cancer research I think at its best," said Dr. Philip Hahnfeldt. "It's trying trying to understand basic rules by which we can treat cancer as one disease."

The lab is located at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton, but on September 30, the lab will be shut down and all of its current research will be discontinued.

Dr. Philip Hahnfeldt is one of more than a dozen scientists who will be out of a job and he believes this is a huge blow to cancer research. "I think it's a tragedy," he says.

Hahnfeldt and other researchers blame the administrators at GeneSys Research Institute, a non-profit organization that manages the finances of the lab.

GRI is funded through millions of dollars in federal research grants secured by the lead scientist in the lab, Dr. Lynn Hlatky. Grants include millions of taxpayer dollars from the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Energy and NASA.

"There's an incredible misappropriation of monies," Dr. Philip Hahnfeldt says.

And these researchers, including Dr. Hlatky, want to know what happened to all of that grant money.

Steward Health Care, the parent company of St. Elizabeth's has the same question. They filed a lawsuit against GRI claiming they were paying the lab's bills and GRI was supposed to reimburse them nearly four million dollars.

GRI's CEO David Horowitz refused to speak on camera but told the I-Team that the closing of the lab was part of a contractual agreement.

In a statement he also said, "Steward Health Care has commenced a lawsuit against GRI in Suffolk Superior Court for amounts it claims are due and owing from GRI. GRI denies Steward's claims."

But these researchers insist millions are unaccounted for and now the future of their research and their careers is in jeopardy.

Researchers have reported the alleged misuse of funds to the Massachusetts Attorney General's office and they are investigating.

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