Five years ago The Hope Foundation for Cancer Research launched an innovative, improved process for soliciting proposals for the coming funding year, as I happily outlined in a Front Line at the time. 

Hope has always supported strategic proposals, but before 2016, those proposals tended to come from SWOG’s leadership or the Hope board of directors. Starting with the 2017 funding year, however, Hope has made open calls annually, inviting all SWOG stakeholders with great ideas for advancing the group’s strategic goals to submit ideas for funding. The foundation recently issued this year’s call for proposals, with a deadline of September 1.

The approach has been fruitful, and many key programs have been funded in response to this open call.

Hope’s Trial-Specific Education Funds program, for example, was born of an open call proposal championed by Nathan Eriksen, SWOG’s chief of administration. As studies become ever more complex, this program supports the development of training materials and events for trials that cannot otherwise garner industry support for educational interventions. Studies with non-standard endpoints, complicated designs, or the potential for FDA registration may be eligible.

The birth of our Palliative and End-of-Life Care Committee was also nurtured in this way. A proposal by Frank Meyskens, Jr., MD, of our Scientific Leadership Advisory Group, funded a standing-room-only palliative care symposium at our spring 2017 group meeting. This advanced the conversation about studying end-of-life care within SWOG and let us assess group-wide interest in the area and prioritize research ideas. We formed a working group and the following year convened our first new NCORP committee in years. This is a wonderful example of how the Hope funding call crystallized resources around a widespread need.

Another example of a seminal event funded in this way is the Immunotherapy-Related Adverse Events Symposium held at our spring 2019 group meeting, the result of a proposal by Virginia Sun, PhD, MSN, RN. The symposium convened experts in immuno-oncology, cardio-oncology, and oncology advanced nursing to educate members on the mechanisms driving immune-related adverse events and on patient-centered strategies for managing them.

Providing these types of educational opportunities for our members is a cornerstone goal of group meetings, and Hope’s CRA/Nurse Travel Support Program has made those opportunities more widely available. A product of an open call proposal submitted by staff at our Statistics and Data Management Center, this program has funded the travel of 44 member nurses and clinical research associates to three SWOG group meetings thus far. As we expect to hold a hybrid in-person and virtual meeting this fall (watch this space), we anticipate these funds will once again be available to support CRA and nurse travel.

Finally, in 2019 SWOG Vice Chair Lee Ellis, MD, submitted a proposal to fund several new awards to honor outstanding SWOG members and staff who show commitment and passion beyond the normal call of duty. The result was four Special Recognition Awards: for mentorship, humanitarianism, innovation, and patient advocacy. I announced the first four awardees at last fall’s group meeting, and I invite your nominations for the next round of awards.

I’ve discussed here just a handful of the more than 30 (!) programs that have been funded by Hope through this mechanism. The program also supports some ongoing initiatives that resubmit requests annually because their needs vary from year to year, such as our Patient Advocate Committee’s work on the TeamScience@SWOG modules and our SWOG Latin America Initiative.

The success of the open call funding program is driven by the commitment of our members to pursuing their innovative ideas. What’s your great idea for meeting an outstanding need in a way that will further SWOG’s mission? The Hope website has details on how to submit your proposal, and the deadline is September 1. Go for it!