SWOG has now held its third virtual group meeting and, as practice makes perfect, this was our best virtual meeting so far.

The number of sessions – 59 – was considerably greater than at last fall’s virtual meeting, and our extended agenda spread them out over an entire week, Monday through Friday. This spread meant I, and more of our members, were able to attend many more research committee meetings than usual, and I was thoroughly impressed by the energy in the air and the science emerging. SWOG’s future, near and far, appears exceedingly bright!

With the return of our translational medicine plenary, we again had both Plenary I and Plenary II sessions, both with good attendance and great speakers.

At Plenary I, incoming AACR president Dr. Dave Tuveson presented work on growing pancreatic ductal organoids in the lab to predict treatment response in patients. Dr. Edison Liu followed with a talk on how a whole-genome configuration of a cancer can also predict treatment response. You can view both of these stimulating talks here.

At Plenary II, Recruitment and Retention Committee Chair Allison Caban-Holt, PhD, detailed ongoing and planned SWOG efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion among our trial participants, membership, and leadership. Patient Advocate Committee Chair Rick Bangs, MBA, presented on Module 6 of the TeamScience@SWOG training series, which maps out a pathway for increasing enrollment of underrepresented groups of patients in our trials.

Also at Plenary II, I welcomed the new chair of SWOG’s Adolescent and Young Adult Committee, Dr. Rebecca Johnson of Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, and that committee’s new vice chair, Dr. Lucia Nappi of the British Columbia Cancer Agency.

Here are a few other highlights of the week:

  • A Patient Advocate Committee welcome for our two newest community advocates: Joël Pointon representing the LGBTQ community and La’Shae Johnson representing rural cancer patients.
  • A highly informative set of sessions on the work of the SWOG Clinical Trials Partnerships program under the leadership of Dr. Kathy Albain. I hope to have exciting CTP news to report soon, so watch this space.
  • Oishi Symposium presentations on the critical work being done by nurse scientists and the opportunities available to them to lead trials within NCORP.
  • News that a coming Lung-MAP amendment will allow patients to be screened based on results of a prior FoundationOne tumor test, relieving some patients of having to undergo an additional biopsy.
  • A special symposium on using wearable sensors in conjunction with patient-reported outcomes to better assess how our patients are doing outside of the clinic.
  • Presentations on the new S2013 I-CHECKIT study (activating soon!), which will build a risk model to predict which patients are most likely to face toxicities from immune checkpoint inhibitors.
  • Discussions of candidate studies for developing master protocols – ImmunoMATCH, MyeloMATCH, and ComboMATCH.

Finally, I’m proud to report that the VA Working Group is no more – because the Board of Governors has promoted the group to a full-fledged research support committee!

The VA Committee inherits the same mission: to improve veterans’ access to cutting edge cancer treatment by helping local VA facilities with access, implementation, and accrual to NCI trials. This was our goal when we convened the VA working group in 2013 with the idea that it could progress to a research support committee, if warranted.

It is absolutely warranted, and the new VA Committee will continue to be chaired by Stephen Bartlett, RPh, who since 2013 has skillfully led a team that has done a superb job of growing our VA presence.

On its way to increasing annual VA accrual to SWOG trials 18-fold, the team

  • created a VA specialist position within SWOG to assist VA members with regulatory and other processes
  • built the VA workbench on the SWOG website as a clearinghouse of resources to help VA members open trials
  • established VA Consortium guidelines for incorporating multiple VA centers under the direction of a single “storefront” SWOG member
  • brought onboard a dedicated community advocate, Bruce Wright, as a liaison between veterans and researchers

The team’s accomplishments continue to bear fruit: at Plenary II, I announced the latest VA Integration Awards – to the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center in Philadelphia and the VA Boston Healthcare System in Boston. These grants are funded by The Hope Foundation and reviewed and awarded by the VA Working Group (now VA Committee).

Thanks to all who worked so hard to make our spring meeting such a success! Recordings of the open sessions are posted online. Assuming the pandemic continues to subside in the coming months, we’re exploring making our fall meeting in Chicago a hybrid in-person and virtual event, bringing together the best of both worlds! I’ll certainly have more to say on this as that time approaches.

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