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ASCO Again Aims to Plug Information Leak

"We commend ASCO for understanding industry concerns and working quickly to find a fair solution that can be acceptable to physicians, investors and publicly traded companies," says Neil Cohen, a Genentech spokesman.

Says SG Cowen analyst Eric Schmidt: "This isn't a bad thing as long as there is equal and fair dissemination of the research abstracts. The past couple of years have been a real disaster for ASCO."

Scott Gottlieb, a doctor and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, disagrees. Gottlieb believes ASCO should have decided to make a general public release of its abstracts in advance of the annual meeting. Instead, ASCO's actions bolster his view that the group is more interested in preserving the importance of its meeting rather than actually helping doctors treat patients with cancer.

"It seems ASCO is still in the business of restricting information, but now nobody can have it," says Gottlieb. "It still presumes average people are too stupid to interpret bottom-line results without the help of the conference. This will probably hurt the quality of the conference for its members, so I'm surprised ASCO did it."

ASCO's new policy does not make any mention of its embargo policy, which prohibits the media from publishing research-abstract data before the meeting, and even extends the prohibition to any information gleaned from analyst reports. ASCO has barred TheStreet from attending its meeting under a media credential for the last two years because TheStreet reported on ASCO research data contained in Wall Street analysts' notes, although the information was "embargoed" by the group.

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