Our heretofore-known-as Young Investigator Training Course (YITC), now in its 24th year, is designed to nurture the careers of clinical cancer researchers in their first few years (the first seven, specifically) after completing their training. Often these are professionals who fall into the "young adult" age range, but sometimes these are cancer researchers who fall out of that age bracket.

In the interest of greater accuracy in naming, and to reduce the chances of unconscious ageism playing a role in program decisions, we’re retitling the course. 

What was our YITC is now our Early-Stage Investigator Training Course, or ESITC (equally unpronounceable as an acronym). The program itself is unchanged in terms of eligibility, conduct, or goals (the deadline to apply for the 2023 program, by the way, is May 1).

Our adoption of the label “early-stage investigator” recognizes that not all researchers step into medical school or a doctoral program straight out of their undergraduate years. 

This vocabulary change also puts us more in line with other research organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, although the NIH defines “early stage” slightly more broadly – as within 10 years of completing training. We reserve the right to be flexible in applying the term, but the programs we use it with for now are all limited to applicants within seven years of completing their professional training.

This re-titling of our flagship professional development course coincides with the formal launch of two new Hope Foundation funding programs geared to this same demographic.

The first is the new NCORP Early-Stage Investigator Travel Funds program. Recruiting junior investigators is a top priority for SWOG research committees, including those on our NCORP side. 

This new program will fund travel to a group meeting for up to 10 early-stage investigators representing our NCORP sites and research priorities. Program planners will also sponsor a reception for supported investigators at the fall group meeting, to help introduce these researchers to the wider community.

The application deadline for NCORP Early-Stage Investigator Travel Funds program support for our spring 2023 group meeting is March 1, 2023. Apply on the Hope website.

The second new Hope funding program has been seen before in this space – the Nicholas Vogelzang SWOG GU Scholarship. I’m pleased to say this scholarship program is now formally up and running and accepting applications.

Established in honor of the late SWOG leader, mentor, and friend-to-many Dr. Nicholas J. Vogelzang, the Vogelzang Scholarship supports travel by an early-stage investigator to two SWOG group meetings (spring and fall). The program also pairs each Vogelzang Scholar with a senior mentor who will help them navigate the NCTN research group environment, not only at the meeting but also throughout their early career years. 

Applicants must have an MD or equivalent and must be within seven years of completing their final training. A resident or fellow in their final year of training may apply. Applicants must be a member of SWOG (or concurrently applying for SWOG membership).

The application deadline for the scholarship for the 2023 group meetings is 5 pm ET on January 17 (extended from January 15 because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday).

In looking to SWOG’s future, we are investing heavily in our early-stage investigators. Supporting them to attend group meetings, as these two new programs do, will expose them to clinical trial research early in their careers, allow them to network with senior investigators, and introduce them to additional funding possibilities. In short, it will give them opportunities to become future leaders within SWOG and the wider cancer research community.