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

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Our NCORP scores and reviews are in: The funding announcement is not

May 30, 2014 - I am quite pleased to share with you news about SWOG's grant application for support as a Research Base within the new NCI Community Oncology Research Program, or NCORP. The application which had several contributors, was in general well received by reviewers, who gave it an impact score of 19. I'm extremely proud of that score, which reflects the extraordinary caliber of both our researchers and our leaders; it reflects approval of work already done in cancer control, prevention, and screening, and in cancer care delivery; and it shows confidence we are on the right track in terms of future plans.

The summary statement of reviewers' comments and conclusions will be invaluable in helping us assess our strengths and potential weaker areas or challenges. While all five of our program areas reviewed were rated in one of the "outstanding" categories or better, our Cancer Care Delivery Research Program needs to be singled out. CCD led the way, with an average merit rating of "exceptional." This is great for SWOG and its future; CCD research represents only a small fraction of the grant award in year one, but it will assume increasing importance in succeeding years. In other words, our CCD Program, which is already very well-developed, should serve us well for the next five years.

Cited among our overall strengths were our efforts in comparative effectiveness research, our multiple-PI approach, and the extraordinary quality of the grant leadership team. Reviewers agreed with our belief that engaging community oncologists in collaborative research will speed the adoption of new evidence-based practices, even as we continue to look for opportunities to bring our community site members into scientific and administrative leadership roles and to keep them integrated into the group's governance structure. The CCOP PI meeting earlier this month in San Francisco, the first one held over the past several Group Meetings, represented progress on this front. The reviewers also liked our global outlook, recognizing the successful completion of the S0701 study of H. pylori eradication in Latin America alongside of the group's other signal successes in large prevention studies -- PCPT and SELECT.

They acknowledged a strong history of mentorship within SWOG, though one reviewer did ask for more detail on our specific plans to mentor young investigators on the cancer control side of SWOG. I'm convening a task force to ensure we realize the full potential of our early career researchers. Those of you with a particular interest in helping us chart our future course in mentoring young investigators should contact me directly.

I don't want to hide our warts, though they were pretty small. Reviewers urged further progress in engaging the community and in developing screening studies. They urged advancement in our work to make our symptom control studies innovative and more biologically based. Also, while they labeled our data management plans "strong" overall, reviewers did ask for more clarity in our plans for making best use of genomic data.

So please join me in congratulating the grant Principal Investigators and in being encouraged by the strong reviews. There's always a disclaimer -- keep in mind that a good score does not guarantee us any particular level of funding as the new NCORP is rolled out. On the plus side, I would certainly argue a good score is necessary but not sufficient, so we have potentially vaulted the first hurdle!


P.S. Here's an important note from Roy Herbst, one of the key players on the lung master protocol:

It is wonderful that after nearly two years of intensive planning by our multidisciplinary team, the SWOG S1400 Lung-MAP protocol is now up on the website and available for sites to begin processing for activation in June. As the 50th annual ASCO meeting begins, what better time to celebrate a trial that will bring this new era of molecular medicine to patients by matching them to state-of-the-art targeted therapies?


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