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

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ASCO and the NCTN: Leading cancer research. Together.

Jan 10, 2014 - Running the risk that the braying you hear is me tooting my own horn, I do want to say that I am pleased and honored to have recently been elected to the Board of Directors of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, or ASCO. A friend to me and to SWOG, Dr. Walter Curran, past chair of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) and one of the founding principal investigators of the consolidated NRG Oncology cooperative group, also was elected. I truly believe the presence of two cooperative group chairs on the ASCO Board -- especially two who represent different disciplines -- can provide unprecedented opportunities to develop synergies between ASCO and the NCI's emerging National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN).

Certainly ASCO and SWOG share a common overarching mission, with the intersection coming into clearest focus in one well turned line from ASCO's vision statement: "Information we learn from every patient will be used to accelerate progress against cancer." We also share values and challenges. Patients and patient-centric activities are paramount in both our organizations. And both organizations plan to move forward doing a better job of engaging our constituencies (physician scientists and patients) and joining other, non-medical sectors in realizing the value of modernizing our information systems, with particular attention paid to effectively measuring what we are accomplishing and to help point us toward what we should be doing.

My model in balancing these NCTN and ASCO roles is, of course, Dr. Richard Schilsky, past president and current Chief Medical Officer of ASCO, and Chair of CALGB for many years. Dr. Schilsky has championed the cooperative group enterprise in many venues and under many hats, including his various ASCO roles, to the benefit of both groups. While he is uniquely competent, and I am certainly no Rich Schilsky, I do hope to learn from how he conducted himself in his dual roles, again, like Dr. Schilsky, bringing something useful back from each organization to each organization. It should be an interesting next four years!


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