COVID-19 has not been that kind to non-COVID-19 research, slowing accrual to clinical studies and, in many cases, shuttering bench labs altogether.

No one in research is more vulnerable than young investigators, as these stories inSTAT News and Science note. A UK survey of 5,000 doctoral students and junior facultyshowed that funding concerns are weighing heavily right now; 70 percent of respondents were worried about money. That’s because some early career researchers are working on a contract basis, and many haven’t yet landed a major grant. Young investigators may also have college debts to pay off and young children to care for.

My entire leadership team at SWOG Cancer Research Network is committed to supporting young investigators – now more than ever. So is the staff and board of directors at The Hope Foundation for Cancer Research.

I’m proud to report that Hope has awarded not one, but two Dr. Charles A. Coltman Jr. Fellowships for 2020. These fellowships are (better than) gold for young investigators, providing two years of protected time and a total of $100,000 to conduct clinical or laboratory work.

Hope reviewers selected Dr. Zeynep Eroglu , a medical oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center, to win one as one winner of a 2020 Coltman awards. A member of our melanoma and digital engagement committees, Dr. Eroglu will devote the fellowship to a new SWOG study, S2000, which, once launched this fall, will compare the effectiveness of two different combinations of agents for metastatic melanoma with CNS spread. It’s an important trial focused on a critical area. I’d like to thank Dr. Hussein Tawbi of MD Anderson Cancer Center, for mentoring Dr. Eroglu as she fulfills her fellowship work.

The other Coltman winner is Dr. Chad Rusthoven of the University of Colorado. Dr. Rusthoven is a radiation oncologist who joined the SWOG lung committee in 2017. Dr. Rusthoven will devote his fellowship time to lead S1827, also known as MAVERICK, a randomized phase III trial evaluating the role of preventive brain radiation for patients with small-cell lung cancer. S1827 launched in January, and is being promoted through the NCTN, the NCORP and the VA system. Thanks to Dr. Ross Camidge, also of the University of Colorado, for his mentorship of Dr. Rusthoven.

Hope’s flagship program for early career researchers – the Young Investigator Training Course – will hopefully take place this year. Program leaders have moved the session from September to December, in the hopes that the course can be conducted in person. Right now, the course is on the calendar for Dec. 14-16, up in Seattle. Each year, four to six young investigators are flown to the Emerald City to take part in an intensive, three-day crash course on the NCI, SWOG, and the intricacies of developing and running network group protocols. This year is the 21st anniversary of the program, and its track record speaks for itself. The course has trained 106 early career researchers and resulted in 47 SWOG trials. Seven YITC grads – Drs. Angela Davies, Anthony B. El-Khoueiry, Syma Iqbal, Zeina Nahleh, Daniel Persky, Parminder Singh, and Jack West – have played leading roles in two or more SWOG studies. Other YITC grads – Drs. Sy Ahmad, Kathy Crew, Cathy Eng, Lynn Henry, and Ken Grossmann – have gone on to lead SWOG committees. I am particularly proud of that stat!

Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2020 YITC winners. And please reach out to me personally at oynaxrp/ng/bufh/qbg/rqh with ideas for how SWOG can better support young investigators at this critical time. As we think about the September group meeting, and as we move forward with our strategic planning and execution, I welcome your thoughts about ways we can ease the way and clear the path for, and just generally encourage, the next generation.