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The Front Line: Charles D. Blanke, MD, SWOG Chair

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An update on SWOG's approach to studying rare cancers

Jul 19, 2013 - Among the specific aims we laid out in the NCTN grant application we submitted earlier this year is the following: To work with a variety of NCTN partners to reduce barriers to participation in clinical trials involving rare cancers.

I want to update you on our efforts regarding this very serious issue. Specifically, SWOG is taking the following three approaches to achieve our goals on this front:

1. Leading and contributing treatment sub-studies to NCTN master protocols, which commonly include a range of rare molecular subtypes of solid tumors.
We are already engaged here by heading the planned multi-group squamous cell lung cancer master protocol, and we are also planning to contribute arms to the NCI's histology nonspecific and GI master protocol initiatives, as they develop.

2. Building on our success in opening rare disease studies in areas covered by SWOG's disease committees.
We have a number of such studies already open or under development:

  • S0805 in patients with Philadelphia chromosome positive and/or Bcr-Abl positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • S1106 for patients older than 65 years of age who have previously untreated mantle cell lymphoma
  • S1107 in papillary renal cell carcinoma
  • S1108 in peripheral T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • A phase II study of ipilumumab for patients with incurable mucosal or acral lentiginous melanoma
  • A phase II study in patients with metaplastic breast cancer

We have also endorsed rare cancer studies opened by other cooperative groups. Under the open participation structure of the coming National Clinical Trials Network, SWOG will have even more options for participating in rare cancer studies opened by other groups or organizations.

3. Activating a Rare Cancer Task Force
Dr. Anne Schott is now assembling a Rare Cancer Task Force, which will include physicians from several treatment and control disciplines, a patient advocate, and SWOG's communications manager to help with publicizing trials.

Once the task force membership is fully assembled, its duties will include the following:

  • identifying rare cancer protocols within SWOG and elsewhere in the NCTN to promote in a range of venues -- our group meetings, our newsletter, our twice-a-month protocol update emails, our social media outlets, and more.
  • Interacting with research committee chairs to identify their interests in studying rare cancers and to foresee opportunities coming out of SWOG institutions, so we can maximize the chances that these interests and opportunities will lead to innovative clinical trial proposals.
  • Taking part in NCI meetings on rare cancers and promoting the development of streamlined systems (such as the NCI CIRB) that can make it more viable financially and logistically for an institution to open a rare disease protocol.

If you have a particular interest in contributing to this Rare Cancer Task Force, or in any other way with our rare cancer initiatives, please contact Dr. Schott.


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