The Rise of SWOG Research Support Committees
Creating and managing successful clinical trials requires significant expertise. That’s why we’ve always had research support committees at SWOG Cancer Research Network, even if they were historically called something else. The surgery, imaging, and bone marrow and stem cell transplantation committees have all provided on-the-ground and on-the-fly guidance on the scientific and medical matters that our investigators need to design and run their trials.
In addition, patient advocates, pharmacists, clinical research associates, and nurses have all traditionally offered invaluable advice on our protocols, as well as our data management, quality, and other key work processes. That’s why we have the patient advocate, the pharmaceutical sciences, and the oncology research professionals committees. These experts see trials from a unique perspective – that of the patient and their care support teams, and they offer scientific input as well.
To help us manage clinical trial complexity, I’ve added several new research support committees since I took over as group chair in 2013. That same year, we launched our adolescent and young adult (AYA) committee and in 2014, we created the recruitment and retention working group, and later elevated it in 2016 to a full committee, to take on the issue of diversity. The recruitment and retention committee, or RRC, is our source of expertise in recruiting and retaining underrepresented patients, as well as attracting a diverse group of members and leaders in SWOG. Most recently, in 2016, we created the digital engagement committee. The committee is our source of expertise on social media, text messaging, web and mobile apps, and other digital tools.
All of these committees do important work in supporting, and occasionally designing, our studies. Patient advocates and pharmacists work side-by-side with researchers in every NCTN and NCORP research committee to ensure that our trials address patient needs, and that investigational drugs are handled properly.
The digital engagement committee will submit reviews when proposals contain new communications tools or methods. (Patient advocates already comment on all studies). Digital engagement has also launched a Facebook page for the group, offers social media training for members, and is in the process of creating a series of videos to raise awareness for SWOG, Hope, and cancer clinical trials.
The recruitment and retention committee is gathering baseline demographic data on our members and has recently approved a five-year strategic plan. The AYA committee has an exciting biomarker surveillance clinical trial in development. And the patient advocate committee has grown – and will continue to do so. When I started as SWOG chair, we had 11 advocates. We now have 19 slots and will soon have 20, when the new palliative and end of life care advocate is named in the coming weeks. In fact, when our new community advocate program begins in 2019, and is fully rolled out, we will have 30 SWOG advocates advising on trial concepts, troubleshooting study management, and helping disseminate our results.
And you can look for another research support committee sometime in 2019. It’s our immunotherapy committee in development, and it will help all our members and investigators keep up with IO translational science, identify resources, and build partnerships.
Please check SWOG.org to learn more about some of these research support committees, including their members, missions, projects, and contact information. When you log into the site, just click the “member resources” tab. And stay tuned for more to come!