At the April 22 Plenary Session 2 at our spring meeting, you’ll hear an update on efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the SWOG Cancer Research Network. I also reported on these efforts in a January Front Line post. Now I wanted to tell you about another diversity initiative, a public-private partnership powered by The Hope Foundation for Cancer Research.

It’s a May 21 virtual symposium, to be held from 3 to 5 p.m. ET, to showcase efforts by Minority Underserved NCORP sites to enroll more underrepresented patients into cancer trials. Mark your calendars now! Registration information, a speaker list, and other details will come soon; They’re still being worked out.

What’s unique about the symposium is that it will bring together NCORP staff from across the National Clinical Trials Network – not just SWOG sites, but also those associated with Alliance, NRG, ECOG-ACRIN, Children’s Oncology Group, and the Canadian Cancer Trials Group. Participants can share experiences about effective practices, and real-world challenges, when it comes to enrolling racial and ethnic minorities, older adults, young adults, members of the LGBTQ+ community, rural residents, and other people with cancer who are less likely to join a clinical trial.

The goal is to spark ideas that not only change practice at the site level, but also which spark ideas for research – our core business! By bringing together NCORP site staff from across the country to share expertise, we hope to generate ideas for pilot studies that can help us better understand how to best educate and encourage historically underserved populations to consider joining trials. We need more evidence for what does, and doesn’t, work so we can improve equity and reduce disparities for our patients.

What’s most exciting about the initiative, for me, is that the symposium is not a one-off event. It’s being designed as part of a multi-phased, multi-year NCORP program to share, model, replicate, and test proven interventions that increase minority and underserved representation in cancer trials. With ideas generated from the symposium, the plan is to create a pilot grant program to launch this fall. The final phase, to roll out at the end of 2021, would be awarding those grants. Right now, the idea is to fund five trial awareness and accrual pilot projects at $50,000 each.

I’m excited that SWOG is reaching out to include all of our NCTN partners. As with our work on master protocols, and new projects like plain language, working together to advance the science and art of cancer trials just makes sense. When we work together, patients benefit.

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