The Lynx Group

Industry-Funded Studies Receive Greater Prominence at ASCO Meetings

September 2013, Vol 4, No 7

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) revised its policy on financial conflicts of interest (FCOIs) in 2005, establishing for the first time certain types of financial relationships for clinical trial principal investigators. ASCO also clarified its requirement for those submitting research presentations at the annual ASCO meeting to disclose potential FCOIs with any entity having a commercial interest in the subject matter.

Despite widespread implementation of conflicts of interest policies in academic centers, federal agencies, and professional medical societies, evidence is limited about the effects and influence of financial support from the pharmaceutical industry on the type of research conduct, the outcomes, and dissemination of the results.

A new study, supported in part by the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute and ASCO, examined the prevalence of FCOIs in oncology and the association between pharmaceutical industry funding, based on self-disclosure by authors, and research prominence and peer-review score among abstracts presented at ASCO annual meetings (Moy B, et al. J Clin Oncol. 2013;31:2678-2684).

The analysis included 20,718 abstracts that were presented at ASCO annual meetings over a 5-year period (2006 and 2008-2011). The ASCO database for 2007 was incomplete, thus excluding this period from the study. FCOIs were classified as employment stock, consultant, honoraria or research funding, and expert witness. The order of meeting placement prominence was defined in descending order of plenary session, clinical session, oral presentation, poster discussion, general posters, and published only. The peer-review score  was determined by 2 individuals who independently assigned a score of 1 to 5 to the abstracts, with the lower value indicating higher merit.

Overall, 36% of the abstracts had at least 1 author with a financial relationship to the pharmaceutical industry. The rate increased from 33% in 2006 to 38% in 2011 (P <.001) for the proportion of abstracts with any FCOIs. Of the 12,058 abstracts accepted for presentation, those whose authors disclosed any financial relationship increased from 39% in 2006 to 47% in 2011 (P <.001). Abstracts with FCOIs were also found to have been given higher meeting prominence compared with general posters. Specifically, odds ratios compared with general posters were 7.3 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.5-21.4) for plenary sessions, 2.2 (95% CI, 1.8-2.7) for clinical science symposia, 1.9 (95% CI, 1.6-2.1) for oral presentations, and 1.7 (95% CI, 1.5-1.8) for poster discussions (P <.001).

Abstracts with FCOIs had significantly better peer-review scores compared with abstracts without such conflicts. For all abstracts, the peer-review score was 2.76 with FCOIs compared with 3.01 without FCOIs. Excluding published-only abstracts, the peer-review score was 2.62 with FCOIs
versus 2.73 without FCOIs.

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