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The Front Line: Charles D. Blanke, MD, SWOG Chair
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SWOG's Annum of Diamond Dazzle

Jan. 8, 2016 - In this new year, we'll celebrate our 60th anniversary. Yes, that's right. It's time for our diamond jubilee -- and I need your ideas to help make it sparkle.

Our research group was founded in 1956. In an effort to duplicate the success of research in tuberculosis, when collaboration led to a cure, the National Cancer Institute created several cooperative groups to study leukemia treatments. One was the Southwest Cancer Chemotherapy Study Group, a regional network focused on pediatric cancer research. Its first locale was Houston.

Now, more than 1,000 clinical trials and at least two name changes later, SWOG is one of the nation's largest cancer research networks. We have more than 12,000 members, working in more than 950 institutions, located in six countries. Our group chair's office is, of course, based in Portland, Ore., with our statistical center in Seattle, Wash. And, yes, we're still (partly) in Texas. Our operations staff is based in San Antonio.

To mark our 60 years of fighting cancer through clinical research, I want to focus on SWOG's meaningful impact. Not simply how many trials we've run, or patients we've enrolled, or how many journal articles we've published. These statistics are important, but they don't tell the full story. Over two generations, we've conducted research that has changed cancer prevention, treatment, and patient support. By putting new drugs and old myths to the test, we've helped alter the course of cancer medicine -- and helped save a significant number of lives. I'd like to tell the world some of those stories, of committed doctors and nurses and scientists and the courageous people they serve.

What stories and numbers should we use to gauge our impact and tell our story? Please write and tell me! Do you know a patient who survived because of a SWOG trial regime, or a drug approved because of a SWOG study? Do you know a pioneering SWOG researcher or patient advocate who has made a big difference? Please write and tell me! And send ideas for celebrating -- at our 2016 group meetings and all year long.

When Disneyland hit the big 6-0 last year, their wizards of fantasy whipped up a Diamond Celebration fireworks spectacular, a nighttime parade featuring 1 million lights, and a new outdoor show complete with fire, lasers, fog, and 1,200 fountains shooting rainbows of water 200 feet in the air. Plus signature drinks, special cupcakes, and rhinestone-studded Mickey ears.

While I can't promise diamond tiaras or smoke machines, I want it to be a year to remember. I want to hear your ideas on speakers and awards and publications and other ways to mark our milestone. Let's make 2016 great.