'No Excuse' for Undisclosed Conflicts of Interest, but Perhaps a Simple Solution

Kathy D. Miller, MD


October 09, 2018

Hi. This is Dr Kathy Miller from Indiana University. It has been a difficult couple of weeks for those of us who focus on breast cancer. We've all been dealing with the fallout of the reports that one of our leaders, Dr José Baselga of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, failed to report significant conflicts of interest—not just once or twice, but multiple times over many years. There is simply no excuse for that lapse.

This doesn't just affect José Baselga and it doesn't just affect Memorial Sloan Kettering. It affects all of us because these lapses raise significant concerns about the results themselves and about our ability to have confidence in the results of preclinical studies and clinical trials when they're reported to us. It should also raise concerns about results that we may never see. What negative studies has Dr Baselga been involved with that were never reported? Did those conflicts play a role in us not seeing those results?

This impacts our confidence; it impacts the confidence of our funders and the confidence of our patients and their families, who depend on us to help them make decisions based on the best science and the best medical information. That is why this is such a big deal.

This is not a simple problem but it could have a simple solution. Imagine if there was a coordinated system through which all conflicts of interest were reported and could be pulled into every publication and every grant application. I know that may sound too simple. Lots of details would need to be worked out. But having to re-create reporting for every single thing we do does lead to the potential for honest mistakes. Perhaps this incident could finally prompt us to have that discussion and develop such a system so that we can all regain the sense of confidence we've lost at least a bit of in these past couple of weeks.

Thank you for listening to my thoughts. I'd love to hear what you think about this issue. Why do you believe this is important?

This is Dr Kathy Miller. I'll be back with you again soon.


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