One type of financial interest that ASTRO volunteers may have is the ownership of stock or stock options. ASTRO requests information regarding the volunteer’s ownership of stock and stock options in entities “related to ASTRO, to any commercial interest, or to research, treatment, practice or education in the healthcare sector” on the Conflict of Interest Disclosure Statement. 1 However, it exempts mutual funds, retirement accounts, or trusts where the volunteer (including their spouse, partner or any dependent family member(s)) does not have control over the investment decisions. When a volunteer discloses stock or stock options, it constitutes a financial relationship with a commercial interest2 that may require management, or in some cases, divestiture, under ASTRO’s Conflict of Interest Policy.
ASTRO’s President-elect, President, Chair and Immediate Past Chair, CEO and Editors in Chief of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology•Biology•Physics and Practical Radiation Oncology , including their spouse, partner or any dependent family member(s), may not own stock or stock options in commercial interests, unless it is contained in mutual funds, retirement accounts, or trusts, where the volunteer (including their spouse, partner or any dependent family member(s) does not have control over the investment decisions.
All other volunteers will disclose such interests, and they will be reviewed as follows.
Where a volunteer’s work may impact commercial interest
Where the volunteer has stock or stock options in a commercial interest that could have a stake in or be impacted by the work the volunteer is undertaking for ASTRO, it will be viewed as a potentially conflicting interest to be addressed according to the position of the volunteer and the degree of potential conflict.
These relationships should be disclosed to the other members of the committee on which they serve, disclosed in any product that is generated with the volunteer’s participation, and managed as a potential conflict. It may be necessary for the volunteer to recuse him or herself from voting on, or otherwise participating in, matters that relate to the commercial interest. However, in cases where the conflict is viewed as pervasive, it will be necessary to ask the volunteer to resign their specific position with ASTRO if they continue to hold such stock or stock options.
Special rules regarding ASTRO papers
In addition, there are certain positions where ASTRO seeks volunteers who have no potentially conflicting interests, such as for those chairing or vice-chairing committees, task groups, or panels charged with producing ASTRO papers that represent a formal position of ASTRO and are intended to be published in a public venue (e.g., guidelines, best practices papers). These chairs and vice-chairs may not have stock or stock options in commercial interests that could be impacted by the content of the paper. For the remainder of the panel members, ideally there would be no ownership of stock or stock options in commercial interests that could be impacted by the paper, but so long as the interests are disclosed, balanced and managed, and the member is important to the efforts of the group, it may be acceptable for a minority of panel members to have such stock ownership. In these cases, the interests must be disclosed to all others who work on the committee, task group, or panel and must be included in a printed disclosure statement published with the paper, along with any other measures deemed appropriate to address concerns regarding potential conflict.
Where a volunteer’s work does not impact commercial interest
Where the volunteer’s work for ASTRO does not impact or relate to the commercial interest represented by the stock or stock options, there is significantly lower potential for conflict, and will not be viewed as a conflict. However, for purposes of transparency and to preserve the ability to monitor the potential for conflict over time, the relationship should be disclosed to other members of the committee, task group or panel, as well as in any product that is generated with the volunteer’s participation.
1 Under ASTRO COI Policy, the interests of the volunteer’s spouse, partner and any dependent family member(s) must be disclosed as well.
2 Under ASTRO’s COI Policy “commercial interest” is defined as: “Any entity developing, producing, marketing, re-selling or distributing health care goods or services consumed by, or used on, patients.” It exempts “nonprofit or governmental organizations, or entities through which physicians provide clinical services directly to patients.”