COMMENTARY

Lack of Transparency Eroding Public Trust in Cancer Medicine

Maurie Markman, MD

Disclosures

October 05, 2018

Hello. I'm Dr Maurie Markman from Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia. I want to briefly discuss a very important and rather disconcerting topic that has entered the public domain over the past month or so, relating to serious concerns and allegations of conflict of interest among certain academic researchers, clinicians, and institutions. This conversation is not about a single institution or investigator; it is about the issue of conflict of interest.

It's important to emphasize that the question of conflict of interest is a complex one. I personally prefer to use the term "potential conflict of interest" when one talks about the relationship between an individual investigator or individual institution and a third-party, for-profit pharmaceutical company, diagnostic company, etc. These types of relationships must be encouraged. This is how we are going to advance the care of patients with cancers. The relationship between researchers and companies with projects may advance ultimately to a product where they and their investors make money. But the bottom line is that patients will benefit.

Although that potential conflict exists, there is no reason why it has to turn into a real conflict, meaning that relationships need to be clearly discussed and made absolutely transparent. In the absence of that transparency there is this major concern that there is something to hide—some kind of a special deal, some type of special relationship. The entire truth about that relationship is not clear and that is the immediate and very serious concern—that journal articles may not have complete transparency regarding the potential or actual relationship between researchers and institutions, or that profits might go to an institution or an individual doctor in building this relationship between a company and those groups. It is in the absence of this transparency where we have major concerns.

We need to redouble our efforts to make certain that there is absolute transparency of these relationships because if we lose the trust of our patients, their families, and society as a whole, we have lost something that will be very hard to get back. We need to ensure transparency and truth, and make sure that all parties involved understand these relationships so that we can move forward with the development of wonderful new drugs, diagnostic tests, and strategies to improve the outcomes of patients with cancer. I thank you for your attention.

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