Front Line is back! And we jump right in with an update on an under-appreciated SWOG resource.

Our pharmaceutical sciences committee launched in 1994, the first of its kind in the old cooperative group system. It has gone on to influence hundreds of SWOG trials – not to mention how the National Cancer Institute handles investigational drugs.

Its chair, Dr. Siu Fun Wong, the PharmD who created the pharmaceutical sciences committee and built it from the ground up, will step down in 2020.  Supporting our newish term limits, she wants to make room for a new leader.

Siu Fun has every reason to be proud of her work. Pharmaceutical sciences keeps a low profile, but makes a big impact. The pharmacists, researchers, nurses and others who make up this research support committee provide our members critical advice on investigational drugs. They write the drug information section of every protocol and develop adverse drug reaction and symptom management guidelines. They also take part in safety monitoring and write patient education materials.

These services provide essential safeguards for our patients. Before the committee was formed, violations of investigational drug handling were too frequently found in audits of SWOG trials. Not anymore. The committee stepped in to educate SWOG members on how to safely handle study drugs, and members also worked with SWOG audit chief Elaine Armstrong to create a site audit checklist. Violations dropped off, and the NCI took notice. In fact, in 2017, the NCI made an investigational drug online training program available across the NCTN on the topic of drug accountability.

Pharmaceutical science committee members have led SWOG trials as principal investigators, and won research awards from The Hope Foundation for Cancer Research to develop their own trial ideas. Dr. Dan Hertz of the University of Michigan and Siu Fun just secured another Hope SEED Award this year to continue to develop a practical, digital drug-drug interaction screening tool. Drug interaction screening is not uniformly conducted across SWOG sites and trials due to variability in the information in, and access to, drug interaction resources. Use of the tool would standardize the drug-interaction screening process, potentially improving treatment outcomes in SWOG subjects and the applicability of SWOG trial data.

Hertz’ new tool, under development with the web-based healthcare product company PEPID, is just one example of the pharmaceutical science committee’s vitality and relevance. SWOG members interested in joining the committee – or leading it as chair or as head of its drug information subcommittee – should contact Siu Fun Wong at

I’m grateful for Siu Fun’s 25 years of service to SWOG. I’m also optimistic about a larger role for the pharmaceutical science committee in the future. As new immunotherapies, personalized treatments, and other cancer drugs proliferate, we need investigational drug expertise more than ever. While the work of this committee is intricate, it’s mission-critical for making patients our highest priority.

Videos of all SWOG 2019 fall meeting presentations are available for viewing here . And it's that time again! ASCO is accepting abstract submissions for its 2020 Annual Meeting. Please send them to the SWOG pubs office for processing - to chof/ng/fjbt/qbg/bet - before Jan. 28, 2020.