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The Front Line
The Front Line: Charles D. Blanke, MD, SWOG Chair


Re-forging SWOG's VA connections

Jan 3, 2014 - SWOG's VA Task Force has met several times in recent months to formulate solutions to the challenges we face in helping Veterans Affairs institutions activate and enroll to SWOG clinical trials. The Task Force's initial efforts have focused primarily on resolving IRB and information security issues, as well as identifying key personnel in the VA administration who might be willing to help.

I'm particularly excited now in light of new possibilities raised by a consortium of eight Veterans Affairs institutions, led by the Boston VA Medical Center, which have joined together to participate in selected cancer clinical trials. The consortium has approached SWOG about possible membership in our Group. They have a pledge of research support and investment from Dr. Timothy O'Leary, Head of the Clinical Science Division within the Veterans Health Administration's Office of Research and Development. I've reached out to Dr. O'Leary to express SWOG's overwhelming desire to help him achieve his goals, which so closely match ours.

The nucleus of the consortium is the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center, or MAVERIC, one of three epidemiological research centers nationally within the Veterans Health Administration. MAVERIC developed and supports the informatics system underpinning the Million Veteran Program, which has a goal of genotyping blood samples from one million veterans, to assemble one of the world's largest genetic research banks. The consortium is quite interested in pairing with SWOG to do correlative work, especially exciting in that it would support our plan to do more research into personalized oncology.

Bringing together these multiple VA institutions within SWOG could allow us economies of scale and consistency in addressing VA-specific challenges, providing opportunities to pilot and refine our VA Task Force's approaches on a smaller scale, then expand the collaboration to include another 12 facilities, and then to consider system-wide VA participation. If we are successful, the other Cooperative Groups would no doubt like to open their trials with the VA system as well, benefiting the entire NCTN.

I'm hoping to fly to Boston soon with VA Task Force leader Stephen Bartlett, to meet with consortium leadership. Getting our trials open within the VA could make for a very happy new year.


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