In case you have any doubts about the return on investment for SWOG young investigator support, consider the Young Investigator Training Course (YITC). Today, we wrap up our 22nd training course, and in doing so hit a nice, round 100 participants since the program began in 1999.

YITC participants have gone on to lead 45 SWOG trials. They’ve covered just about every cancer type – lung, breast, kidney, prostate, and colorectal, along with melanoma, myeloma, and lymphoma. Young investigators have also launched trials out of the rare cancers, prevention, and survivorship committees. You’ll recognize the names of these young principal investigators: Susanne Arnold, Neeraj Agarwal, Jason Zell, Heather Greenlee, Jennifer Klemp, Parminder Singh, Monty Pal, Jill Hamilton-Reeves, Joshua Mammen, Uma Borate, Sarah Goldberg, Virginia Sun, Eugene Lee. These are, indeed, the next generation of scientific stars at SWOG.

A handful of YITC graduates have also gone on to lead SWOG subcommittees and committees, as well as serve as executive officers. They include Cathy Eng, Lynn Henry, Kathy Crew, and our newest (or at least someone in a new role) Ken Grossmann, co-chair of the new immunotherapy research support committee in development.

The YITC is effective because of its scale, breadth, and intensity. Only four to six early career researchers are accepted to the September sessions in Seattle, during which members get three days of training in SWOG people and process as they develop a cancer clinical trial concept.

The training features introductory sessions on the SWOG group chair’s and operations offices, its statistics and data management center at Fred Hutch and CRAB, and the NCTN itself. Then there are the individual, in-depth sessions on protocol development and review, biobanking, translational medicine, investigational drug considerations, pharmaceutical industry partnerships, and data and safety monitoring. Presentations come straight from experienced SWOG leaders. This year, this group included me, Mike LeBlanc, Antje Hoering, Dana Sparks, Jimmy Rae, Siu-Fun Wong, Megan Othus, and Mary Redman.

This year’s training, for the first time, also included a presentation by Rick Bangs, our SWOG patient advocacy chair. This makes sense, as Rick next month will be rolling out at the group meeting TeamScience @ SWOG, a new, five-module training program which aims to ensure that patient advocates are consistently and seamlessly engaged in SWOG trials. Leadership will get an introduction to TeamScience @ SWOG in Chicago, and the program will roll out to other SWOG stakeholders in 2019.

Also, this year’s training included representatives from all three partner countries in the SWOG Latin America Initiative (SLAI), who are auditing the course. SLAI representatives include Enrique Bargallo-Rocha, MD, of the Instituto Nacional de Cancerologia, México, who hopes to launch a breast cancer trial; Carlos Castaneda, MD, of the Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Neoplasicas in Peru, who also plans a breast cancer trial; and Lina Angelica Buitrago Reyes, MSc, from the Instituto Nacional de Cancerología in Colombia, a statistician and PhD candidate who wants to study the safety and effectiveness of robotic cancer surgery recently introduced at her institution.

I had a great time in Seattle this week, and want to thank Dana Sparks, Megan Othus, and all those who organized this session. Special thanks to the 2018 young investigator team:

  • Cristiane Bergerot, PhD, of City of Hope
  • Elizabeth Brem, MD, of University of California Irvine
  • Anup Kasi, MD, of University of Kansas
  • Deborah Stephens, DO, of University of Utah
  • Paul Swiecicki, MD, of University of Michigan

Finally, I thank The Hope Foundation. Now celebrating their 25th anniversary year, our charity has spent a generation consistently and creatively supporting the next generation of SWOG researchers. Clearly, your efforts have paid off.

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