Back in 2015, when we launched the VA Integration Support Program, SWOG and Hope made a pledge. We wanted to honor those who’ve served in the military every day of the year by working to provide them the very best cancer care, including access to a clinical trial. 

We started by focusing on infrastructure, i.e., offering grants to VA medical centers to support the teams and the tools they needed to open and run trials. So far, Hope has handed out VA Integration Support Program awards totaling $450,000 to 16 VA centers across the country.

This year, the foundation is sending $50,000 grants to:

•    Dallas VA Medical Center, Dallas, TX

•    George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center, Salt Lake City, UT

To see the names of all 16 VA sites given our awards, check out our press release . As the release notes, the Hope money has made a difference, with 65 veterans at these sites enrolled on trials since the VA Integration Support Program began – a small but real increase in vets getting access to cutting-edge treatments on SWOG and other NCI trials. As trials are just now opening, we expect this number to increase dramatically.

There are other benefits to the grant program. At least three VA site leveraged their SWOG/Hope grant to receive a much larger grant – up to $450,000 over three years – from the National Cancer Institute this year through their new NAVIGATE program, which also supports veterans getting onto NCI trials by giving out infrastructure grants like ours, on a much bigger and broader scale. 

One site had a local institute match its Hope funds and used the total to hire a new research coordinator. That coordinator helped the center write an application to join NCI’s Central Institutional Review Board – a key step for registering vets onto NCI trials. That successful application helped the VA center get a NAVIGATE grant this year, as one of 12 sites across the country to receive the award.

Dr. Sheila Prindiville from NCI gave an overview of NAVIGATE at our plenary session in Chicago last month, and I expect to be speaking with her, SWOG VA lead Stephen Bartlett, and Hope President & CEO Jo Horn soon to discuss how our VA Integration Support Program can best mesh with the NAVIGATE program to create a successful and seamless path to active trial enrollment for our VA centers – and our veterans. 

On a separate but very sad note, Dr. Arti Hurria’s Nov. 7 death shocked and dismayed so many of us at SWOG. The City of Hope physician and researcher and ASCO board member was a personal friend. Arti was one of those rare people whom no one disliked, not because she was a pushover, but because she was smart, fair, firm, and generous. She was also the rare individual gifted as a clinician, a researcher, and a teacher, mentor, and parent. Conquer Cancer is honoring Arti by raising funds to create an endowed Young Investigator Award in Geriatric Oncology in her honor. To donate, visit the Conquer Cancer site here.