Group meetings just keep getting better and better. I’m not alone in that assessment. Positive feedback I heard regarding San Francisco was that the meeting demonstrated high energy, collaborative spirit, and forward motion. There was a real sense of excitement as new programs were discussed and/or even launched, and recent initiatives take hold.

Here are my highlights:

  • Leadership Academy – I spent a full day in the company of 16 of our best and brightest young investigators, the inaugural class of SWOG’s new Leadership Academy, an intensive mentoring and training program that grooms cancer researchers for leadership positions in SWOG and other groups in the NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network. It was gratifying to already see their dedication to our group.
  • Palliative Care Symposium – Attendance was more than double what was expected! Speakers sparked innumerable audience questions and hallway conversations about end of life planning, Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), the benefits of palliative care on the length and quality of patients’ lives, and the importance of caring communication. We will be forming a palliative care working group to further investigate this new research arena (for SWOG), but the enthusiasm for studying palliative care is strong.
  • Plenary I – Another packed house for our keynote science-focused session. Margaret Foti, chief executive officer of the American Association for Cancer Research, gave a talk that was both practical and provocative. She gave a great overview of AACR grant programs and processes and also called out challenges and opportunities for improving collaborative science, i.e., how we can work better and faster. Also on the translational medicine front: Full house for the TM mini-retreat.
  • Plenary II – Dr. Julie Gralow delivered a humorous and heartfelt goodbye to Dr. Gabriel Hortobagyi, who has stepped down as chair of our breast committee. Then Drs. Gralow and fellow executive officers Susan O’Brien and Chris Ryan reported on the most innovative SWOG treatment trials in their portfolios. One of our best hours ever! We heard a lot about new drugs, partnerships, and designs we’re using in our treatment trials – and and how SWOG is blazing a path in cancer research via more than a few of those studies. leader Dr. Deborah Zarin of NIH fielded questions on their new beta site, and Linda House, president of Cancer Support Community, was swamped with interesting questions from SWOG fans and friends after her Harry E. Hynes Memorial Lecture. Innovation was demonstrated in every presentation!
  • Patient: A Surgeon’s Journey – There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd after the screening of this documentary about Dr. Jeffrey Piehler, a Kansas surgeon coping with fatal cancer and how the diagnosis changed his views on dying, living, and the work of physicians. Thanks to SWOG member Dr. Peter Van Veldhuizen, who is featured in the film and who spoke after the SWOG screening, and to director Aimee Larrabee, who also attended and answered member questions. Thanks also to Morgan Cox from The Hope Foundation for organizing this screening as a book-end to the palliative care symposium.

Thanks to all for your attendance and active participation. This one will be hard to top (but we will try).