This week, the group chair’s office hosted a number of senior SWOG leaders here in Portland for a grant planning retreat. Our next five-year, multi-million dollar National Clinical Trials Network operations grant application – the main funder of our cancer trials – is due in January. We brought together executives and staff alike to think big and plan early.

Meeting in person is always more fun and more effective, and this was the first big delegation to visit the new group chair offices. We crammed around a relatively small conference table (a few million dollars can only buy so much furniture) to discuss SWOG’s mission, guiding principles, and structure, our last grant aims and reviewer feedback, and new ideas we can put forward next cycle.

While some ideas are still in development, here are a few broad topics that coalesced at this week’s retreat.

  • Immunotherapy and cellular therapy: On the science side, the SWOG team agreed that immune and cellular therapies should get a strong focus in future trials. This means bringing together a critical mass of expertise, and giving those experts the resources they need to conduct meaningful network trials. What form this will ultimately take – committee, working group, etc. – hasn’t been decided. But we’re organizing a brainstorming call in July with key SWOG investigators, and perhaps some outside partners, to start kicking around ideas.
  • Member engagement: Leaders floated another not that novel but still important and exciting idea – more strongly focusing on member satisfaction and engagement. This will include improving group meetings, training sessions, site issues and more, in order to better meet member needs and help them create the very best cancer trials.
  • Information technology: SWOG doesn’t have an information technology director to bring together a host of different systems serving our different offices. We’ll be getting a formal IT needs assessment this summer, and incorporating those recommendations into our NCI grant request.

Huge thanks to those attending the retreat. We put some great issues and ideas on the table, and are moving forward to make them happen. This should improve our trials for years to come.

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