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


New SWOG/NCTN Leadership Academy Cultivates Best and Brightest

July 15, 2016 - Former ASCO President Dr. Julie Vose recently delivered a strong endorsement of federally funded clinical trials. No surprises there! In her June meeting address, Dr. Vose said that coordinated national cancer research – as modeled by SWOG and all the groups that make up the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) – “remains today the most powerful engine for making advances in our understanding and treatment of cancer.”

As we celebrate our 60th year, her view is particularly gratifying. We want to make a difference for our patients now and in the decades to come by conducting ambitious trials run by strong leaders in cancer care and prevention, as well as cancer biology and genetics.

There is a real future here at SWOG for any investigator who wants to make an impact. And we want to help those dedicated young researchers. That’s why I am pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the SWOG/NCTN Leadership Academy, a training and mentoring program for young investigators. The program aim is to educate these early career investigators about the unique trial development process in SWOG and any group in the National Cancer Institute’s network, and to shape them into the cooperative group leaders of tomorrow. We want to proactively identify and successfully nurture future committee chairs, executive officers, and principal investigators. Hopefully one of them will eventually replace me! In short, we want the very brightest to feel they can offer SWOG their finest work.

The SWOG/NCTN Leadership Academy was conceived by myself, in conjunction with Drs. Cathy Eng and David Gandara. Those latter two are leading our first run of this new program. The academy will accept 8-12 junior investigators each year, and provide them with workshops and mentoring to ensure a steady and continuous acquisition of knowledge and skills. Participants will learn about everything from developing a concept with our statisticians, to navigating the NCI’s Central Internal Review Board, to the art and science of patient accrual. Leadership positions, including on NCI task forces, are also covered, along with human and financial resources available to young investigators as they develop their careers.

This enriched content sets the academy apart from our Young Investigators Training Course. So does time. The YITC is a three-day workshop. The new SWOG/NCTN Leadership Academy is a year-long program, one that can last for up to three years for extended mentoring. Long relationships with experienced mentors are one key to the success of young physicians and scientists.

The deadline to apply is August 1. I encourage those eligible to review the application – and fill one out. I also encourage you to please make a donation to The Hope Foundation in this anniversary year. The Leadership Academy is funded by Hope, and the foundation has laid down an exciting challenge. If this year we donate $100,000, they’ll match it, for a total of $200,000 – all of which will be applied to young investigator support. I’m so proud to be working with all of you to invest in the best future for SWOG and our patients.


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