I, and I hope pretty much all the attendees, left our committee chair’s retreat feeling great. Held earlier this month in San Francisco, the retreat was uplifting and pragmatic, and it reminded me how many exceptional cancer research leaders we have in our group.

Even before the retreat began, the Huron Consulting Group had surveyed our committee chairs and executive officers and conducted interviews. The feedback we received shaped the vigorous discussions that followed.

We went in with lofty goals:

  • Optimize SWOG committee organization, functions, and effectiveness
  • Better engage modalities and other specialty experts
  • Improve communication and coordination across committees
  • Enhance mentoring and young/middle investigator career development
  • Take greater advantage of partnering opportunities

Those goals were tackled in earnest, and many innovative ideas emerged, including ways to improve investigator/community involvement. There were discussions regarding the need for better information technology to plan, execute, and track our trials, as well as to make better use of our existing data. We talked about creating additional dashboards to track accrual and other key metrics. Finally, our leaders unequivocally desired recruiting a more diverse group of leaders and members.

Our immediate next steps after the retreat will be to:

  • Update job descriptions of committee chairs and executive officers
  • Inventory our trials and data elements
  • Define strategic priorities over the next funding period
  • Create a dashboard of resources available to each committee chair
  • Develop key metrics for committee chairs to use in facilitating and tracking studies
  • Define the specific roles of research support committees and better engage them
  • Facilitate secondary analyses by research support committees, which do not launch their own trials
  • Create novel opportunities for SWOG investigators to initiate trials within the newly organized Clinical Trials Partnership (More on this in a future Front Line).

Later this year, we will put together a complete strategic plan, including priorities and timelines. I promise to share it with you here.

Thanks again to everyone who gathered with us in San Francisco, and to Dr. Primo “Lucky” Lara for spearheading the meeting. Dr. Lara takes over in March as SWOG’s deputy chair and vice chair of our NCI National Clinical Trials Network study portfolio.