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


San Francisco Slam Dunk

May 6, 2016 - Energy and exhaustion are the two poles we swing between when we gather for our group meetings. Since arriving home last Saturday from our spring session, I’m pleased to report that the exhaustion is ebbing – but the energy remains!

San Francisco offers up lots to talk about. I touch on some highlights below, but stay tuned for more in stand-alone columns in the weeks to come.

Evidence of member engagement could be found everywhere at the Hyatt, including at both plenary sessions. They were packed! The translational medicine session featuring cancer biology pioneer Dr. Frank McCormick and immunotherapy expert Dr. Antoni Ribas was standing room only. On five occasions, extra chairs had to be brought into the ballroom. Congratulations to Dr. Lee Ellis, who oversees translational medicine at SWOG, for really engaging our members by recruiting world-class speakers. At the general plenary, Dr. David Gandara received a standing ovation in recognition of his 19 years of service as lung cancer chair, then gave a talk on SWOG as an exemplar of team science that was inspiring and, sadly, more humorous than mine. Dr. Richard Schilsky of ASCO and CALGB fame brought it all home, surveying 60 years of publicly funded cancer research through the NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network. He also gave us a nice taste of where things are headed for the groups.

And Dr. Schilsky tweeted the meeting! In fact, we got over 500 mentions on Twitter. We debated the future of prevention studies, dissected new developments in early therapeutics, and reviewed the current state of survivorship care. We listened to a presentation on our big precision medicine trial and several on immunotherapy. And we unleashed more than 100 runners on the Embarcadero for our “Crush the Crab” 5K.

Our international work is developing nicely. Investigators from Saudi Arabia, Canada, Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Peru were at the meeting, along with Drs. Ted Trimbel and Tom Gross of the NCI’s Center for Global Health, to discuss expanding our biostatistical and clinical trial training efforts in Latin America and getting more international patients enrolled onto SWOG and NCTN trials. One outcome: We’re creating a Clinical Trials Review Committee to help international members participate in studies originating in the U.S. and to develop trials in their own countries. Committee members will include representatives from Latin American, as well as key leaders in SWOG’s operations center, group chair’s office, and our statistical center. And after the success of our training course in March in Mexico City, SWOG will host another session in Lima, Peru in August. Kudos to Dr. Manuel Valdivieso, who leads our international efforts. He’s making important change possible.

Thanks to everyone who brought such positive energy to our spring meeting. It was a great way to kick off our 60th anniversary. Now, I’d like to reprise my plenary shout-out and offer special thanks our Top 10 accruers to SWOG-led studies for 2015:

  • Kaiser Permanente NCORP
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Gulf South Minority-Based NCORP
  • Greenville NCORP
  • Columbia University Minority-Based NCORP
  • University of Texas at San Antonio
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Rochester
  • City of Hope Medical Center
  • Our fall meeting in Chicago will be even better. See you there!

    If you haven't taken our digital engagement survey for members, please do! Go to Survey Monkey to fill one out.


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