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The Front Line


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

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On Your Mark, Get Set, Grant!

October 27, 2017 - Well, there go my weekends. And the weekends of half our operations office. And Thanksgiving. And Hanukkah/Christmas. And New Year’s Eve and Day. The NCI’s grant announcement was issued Oct. 19 for our National Clinical Trials Network Operations Center – the main source of our funding. All hands are on deck!

Here are some tidbits you might enjoy (all public knowledge, of course):

    • Funding covers a six-year period, not five, like last time

    • Competition is closed; Only groups with a grant can apply for a grant

    • NCI will commit $87.5 million in FY 2019

    • Submission is, for the first time, electronic only

    • The application length is short! – just 66 narrative pages

As always, we will need to describe our strategic aims and our research strategy, including innovation, approach, and past progress. We must lay out our organizational and leadership structure, our collaborations and decision-making processes, and our clinical trial development program, including ways we optimize operational efficiency. We’ll detail plans for, and oversight of, accrual. We must show how we will boost enrollment to NCTN trials, and monitor progress against goals. We never have conflicts in SWOG, but will outline a means of dealing with those (hypothetically of course).

The writing time is short, but we did try to anticipate the ask. We’ve laid significant groundwork for our NCI submission already. This week, senior leaders – including operations chief Dana Sparks and group statistician Mike LeBlanc – dissected the announcement and divvied up work. The submission is due January 19, but of course it has to be submitted earlier to Oregon Health & Science University and the Knight Cancer Institute for local approvals.

After reading over the announcement multiple times, I’ve noticed an emphasis on the twin i’s of innovation and inclusion. Patient advocates and other stakeholders get a shout, as do special study populations like adolescents and young adults. So does training, publications, and collaborations among our partners in the NCTN.

As always, we’ll be scored on our scientific environment, research significance, leadership, innovation, and overall approach. I believe SWOG is strong on every one of these fronts. Let’s hope we can demonstrate that to our reviewers!

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