The American Society of Clinical Oncology is taking steps to clamp down on the selective disclosure of nonpublic research data prior to its big cancer meeting in May. This is a significant step for the medical group, which runs one of themost important and closely watched scientific meetings of the year. Sharesin biotech and pharmaceutical companies rise and fall based on drugresearch results presented at the ASCO annual meeting, slated this year torun May 18-21 in Orlando, Fla. As TheStreet.com reported extensively last year, ASCOmembers and Wall Street insiders get early access to preliminary, but stillmarket-moving, information contained in research abstracts. And they usethat advantage to trade before the general investing public has any inklingof what's happening. As a nonprofit organization, ASCO is not subject to RegulationFD, which the Securities and Exchange Commission designed toquash selective disclosure of market-moving information. But as this year'smeeting approaches, ASCO officials are acknowledging for the first timethat its previous policies ran counter to the spirit of the law, andthey're trying to do something to stop it. Whether ASCO will be successful is still an unanswered question.
In the letter, ASCO acknowledges that information contained in itsresearch abstract book has been distributed and publicly discussed prior tothe meeting. To stop this, the group is instituting a newconfidentiality policy that will govern the use of abstract information.ASCO is also prohibiting the dissemination of any abstract reprints beforethe meeting. "Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission has stepped up itsefforts to ensure that nonpublic research data is not selectivelyreleased," the letter begins. After detailing the above-mentioned changes, the letter ends by statingthat, "although ASCO is not subject to the new SEC regulations regardingfair disclosure, this change does help to align our Society's policies withthe spirit of those SEC regulations." Laura Livingston, ASCO's deputy director of communications, confirmedthe letter but would not comment on its contents, including providingspecifics on the new confidentiality policy. "We will make these changes public after we've communicated them to ourmembers," she says. ASCO expects that to happen by mid-April,when research abstracts will be released to people who have preregisteredfor the annual meeting.