Blue Skies & Progress: A Spring Meeting Recap
We had some of the best San Francisco weather in memory for our spring group meeting last week. The sunshine was matched by the high energy in the hotel, with some terrific discussions at leadership sessions, the Hope board, special conferences, and committee meetings.
I am really pleased with both the spirit and substance of the meeting, and I wanted to report to you some highlights:
- Dr. Razelle Kurzrock, our chair for early therapeutics and rare cancers, gave a fascinating and well-received plenary keynote on the future of precision and personalized medicine. She coined the term “precisionalized” – ensuring precision in treatment by personalizing that treatment. In other words, working to get the right drug to the right patient at the right time. Dr. Kurzrock noted that precision is particularly important for patients with metastatic tumors, which are unique and particularly genomically complex. That’s why, she argued, metastatic cancers must be treated with customized combination treatments – not single agents. It was a great talk, and it reminded me – again – of how many true scientific experts we have at SWOG.
- Dr. Ray Osarogiagbon led his first NCORP Community Site PI meeting, and it was a smash hit. Ray led a brainstorming discussion about ways SWOG can better engage NCORP site investigators and staff. Members enthusiastically offered up a ton of new ideas, from mobilizing advance practice nurses as institutional leads to exploring new models of care for navigation in large, geographically dispersed rural sites. Using technology to connect community physicians to each other, to provide them with training, and to channel their input to SWOG, were other suggestions. Other themes: better engagement of younger physicians and more two-way communication between the group and its NCORP community.
- At the plenary, I announced a number of new leadership hires. Dr. Primo “Lucky” Lara is our new deputy chair, stepping into that role on March 1, when Dr. Anne Schott ended her term. Dr. Roy Decker is taking over as radiation oncology chair from Dr. Paul Okunieff, whose term has expired. Dr. George Yoo also is stepping down from the surgery committee (also term limit-driven), and he is being replaced by Dr. Sy Ahmad. Finally, we have two great leaders stepping in to replace Dr. Howard Hochster regarding oversight of the GI committee. Dr. Philip Philip is now GI chair, and Dr. Cathy Eng is GI vice chair. I’m excited about this new slate of SWOG leaders.
- In his new role as deputy chair, Lucky spearheaded our strategic planning efforts, and he presented our new plan to the committee chairs. The plan (almost definitively!) answers the question: What will SWOG look like in five years? As I outlined in a , the strategic plan has five goals; in San Francisco, Lucky presented immediate next steps. These include fully defining SWOG leadership roles; revising and reimagining the triage process; using our Report of Studies to develop a searchable database of active or completed trials; informing our committee chairs of the range of resources available to them to develop study concepts; and increasing engagement of our research support committees, including the ability to facilitate secondary data analysis projects.
- Our new Clinical Trials Partnerships (CTP) initiative for industry-funded trials, led by Dr. Kathy Albain, was the star of the show. Kathy led substantive discussions with candidates for potential preferred industry partnerships and co-led a planning discussion with the breast committee and AstraZeneca about the S1919 trial, RUSTIC, which will test novel immunotherapy and targeted agent doublets in advanced breast cancer. RUSTIC is scheduled for a fall kick-off.
- On the last day of the meeting, the Board of Governors (BOG) approved an all-new survey policy that provides guidance on how surveys to the full SWOG membership will be handled going forward. Surveys tied to trials will still be overseen by the appropriate executive officer and committee chair. But now, a subcommittee of the digital engagement committee will review general information requests to our members as a way to ensure quality and consistency – and prevent survey fatigue. Also, the board approved revisions to our existing press release policy, changes meant to modernize and clarify that document. The new language expands the subject of promotion beyond press releases to include web copy and social media – key components of cancer research promotion today. The changes also expand on SWOG’s commitment to collaboration in promotion and clarifies our expectations about collaboration from our partners. Look for both policies to land soon on SWOG.org.
- The Hope Foundation for Cancer Research board last year amended the charity’s bylaws to include permanent board slots for members that represent NCORP, our statistics and data management center, and administration leaders. Dr. Dawn Hershman has served as our NCORP representative on the Hope board, and her term expires in October. So the board will hold an election to replace her. Stay tuned! SWOG also suggests three general Hope board members for a BOG vote; Dr. Anjali Advani was elected by the BOG on Saturday to fill one of those slots.
My thanks to all members who took time away from work and family to join us in San Francisco. We were rewarded with blue skies and updates on the amazing progress we have made.
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