Dr. Gary Lyman, SWOG’s executive officer for research in cancer care delivery and symptom control & quality of life since the fall of 2015, will step down from that role after our fall group meeting.

Happily for SWOG, he’ll continue his involvement with the immunotherapeutics committee and the ImmunoMATCH and ComboMATCH studies (including his role on the latter trial’s steering committee). He’s graciously agreed to serve as senior advisor to me on these MATCH trials, both of which are expected to activate protocols (or pilots) before the year is out. He will also remain an active member of the cancer care delivery and symptom control & quality of life committees.

During his tenure as executive officer, Dr. Lyman’s insights and experience have proven to be invaluable in the development of our NCORP research strategy, and he has worked tirelessly to see patient-reported outcomes and quality-of-life measures fully integrated into many of SWOG’s trials. He was instrumental in ensuring they are baked into the original protocol before activation, rather than being added on afterward.

I’m extremely grateful to Dr. Lyman for his service to SWOG and thank him for his willingness to continue serving as a senior advisor. 

I am also extremely excited to announce I have appointed Dr. Virginia Sun to fill his executive officer role.

Virginia Sun, PhD, MSN, RN, is associate professor of nursing research and education in the departments of population sciences and surgery at City of Hope. Reflective of her background as a nurse, then a nurse practitioner, then a nurse researcher, she’s a member not only of SWOG’s palliative & end-of-life care and symptom control & quality-of-life committees but also of our oncology research professionals committee. Her research interests include a focus on patient and caregiver quality-of-life issues and on telehealth and technology interventions to improve patient-centered outcomes. She has been a true superstar in SWOG, and everything she has touched has been highly successful.

Dr. Sun is best known to many of you as study chair for S1820, a randomized trial comparing two interventions for bowel dysfunction in patients who have had rectal cancer. The study is also known as the Altering Intake, Managing Symptoms for Rectal Cancer, or AIMS-RC, trial.

S1820 reached its accrual goal back in April, about six months early. The accelerated enrollment was in large part thanks to the energy and commitment of Dr. Sun, who early on set up clear lines of communication with staff and leaders at sites where the trial would open, and who worked tirelessly while the trial was enrolling to maintain regular two-way communication with those sites, in part through monthly site coordinator meetings to address issues as they arose and to keep sites in the loop on study developments.

Communication, in fact, is a recurrent theme when Dr. Sun discusses her vision for SWOG research (it should come as no surprise that the first of her several degrees was in communication).

She sees clear two-way communication as a critical component in the success of a clinical trial. “We need to think early on about how to engage and communicate regularly with sites across the country to understand, for example, barriers in screening and enrolling patients,” she says, emphasizing the need for listening to sites early enough in the process that a protocol might still be adjusted to ensure its feasibility for the clinics and cancer centers that will try to enroll patients to it.

Contrasting the study chair role with her future executive officer role, Sun says she welcomes the opportunity to work much more closely with the committee chairs, supporting their efforts and priorities. “I see leadership as a service,” she says, “so I’m here to serve everyone. I’m here to listen, and I’m here to help.”

On learning earlier this summer of Dr. Lyman’s plans to step down, our vice chair for NCORP research Dr. Dawn Hershman recommended a shift in the future division of the executive officer roles covering the NCORP portfolio.

Under her vision, current executive officer Dr. Katherine Crew will oversee research in the areas of prevention & epidemiology (an area already in her purview), symptom control & quality of life, and cancer care delivery. Dr. Sun will serve as incoming executive officer for research in palliative & end-of-life care and cancer survivorship.

SWOG has been incredibly well-served in Dr. Lyman’s term, and I have no doubt we will be equally well-served going forward, by Dr. Sun.

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