Every SWOG Cancer Research Network committee chair has been invited to join me and my leadership team in San Francisco just after the new year starts for one of our first strategic planning sessions in years. Dr. Primo “Lucky” Lara, who in March takes over as SWOG’s deputy chair and vice chair of our NCI National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) study portfolio, is leading the meeting – his first official act in this new leadership role.

This meeting will be extremely important for a variety of reasons. The planning retreat will include more than 50 people, including the heads of every SWOG protocol-producing committee, and every research support and administrative committee that assists them, along with our SWOG executive officers and several key administrators and statisticians.

The retreat will offer time to reflect on and shape our core work. We plan on tackling a host of processes and relationships critical to producing and conducting our cancer trials. At this time, the agenda includes:

  • Defining committee roles, responsibilities, structure, and reporting lines
  • Refining study concept initiation, protocol development, and retrospective analysis of completed trials
  • Shortening time to activation – including assessments of work flow, quality control, tracking and reporting, and the RaPID and SWAT processes
  • Evaluating our relationships with our NCI partners in the NCTN, including opportunities to collaborate
  • Enhancing our relationship with the NCI, including NCTN steering committees and task forces, as well as the NCI Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network, which runs phase 1 and 2 trials
  • Developing our future vision for SWOG – taking into account our unique values and priorities

The meeting is being organized by, and will be run with help from, the Huron Consulting Group. The consultants surveyed our chairs to help build the agenda and will help facilitate the meeting and provide a summary of decisions, consensus points, and next steps.

Note that this retreat won’t just be a high level strategy discussion. It will also result in practical, tactical steps we must take to ensure we most efficiently meet our goals. It will also involve a timeline for getting work done. So, expect an actionable plan to emerge!

I see the strategic planning retreat as a good follow-up to the NCTN grant application we submitted just one year ago. That document outlined, in broad strokes, our scientific and operational vision for the future. The plan that will come out of next weekend’s retreat will fill in the details and should help us identify other opportunities to improve our work.

My thanks to Lucky for leading on this important meeting. I will be sure to report back later this month with highlights. This session will be a strong start to this new year and an excellent introduction to the next grant cycle.