Eleven abstracts of the thousands accepted for publication at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), one of the largest cancer research conferences in the world, draw upon data collected through a nonprofit subsidiary of ASCO that in 4 years has brought together the electronic health records (EHRs) of 1.2 million patients.
The ASCO subsidiary — CancerLinQ — will have its own 1200 square foot booth in prime real estate at the entrance to the meeting’s exhibit hall. It has received data from 48 healthcare institutions to help them improve care for patients and has compiled a treasure trove of data for researchers studying how expensive cancer drugs work for patients in the real world. But ethicists are concerned that CancerLinQ is allowing companies to sell access to the data after they have been stripped of patient identifiers, without asking for patients’ permission.
“I think that the ethics of profiting off of someone else’s information is dicey and at the very least the patient should go in with their eyes open, and that requires informing them,” said Robert Field, PhD, MPH, JD, a professor of law and public health at Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.