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

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Non-Classic SWOG Committees

July 11, 2014 - A primary goal of this blog is to keep our members up to date on interesting things under development within SWOG, particularly if they directly further our mission. This week's topic is especially timely and exciting!

Like other cooperative groups, SWOG has primarily organized itself (at least on its "treatment" side) along the lines of studying tumors according to their histology or anatomic site (e.g., Lymphoma and Breast Cancer are two of our eight major therapeutic committees). We do have an Early Therapeutics Committee, chaired by Dr. Razelle Kurzrock, and it has recently aimed itself at doing "histology-agnostic" trials that might involve patients with a variety of primary cancers not tied to one organ system. Additionally, the NCI has charged us with developing a plan for doing clinical trials in rare tumors or tumor subtypes that otherwise had no obvious home for development -- that is, they are not only outside SWOG's committee structure, but they also may not formally fit within the other NCTN groups either.

Our Rare Cancers Task Force, led by Dr. Anne Schott, convened for the first time at the spring group meeting in San Francisco. Several investigators present spoke of their ideas for programmatic development. The Task Force was not originally set up to develop individual trials, but Dr. Kurzrock was at the table and suggested that such rare cancer studies might logically find a home within the Early Therapeutics Committee, which has a strong interest in molecularly defined tumors, rare and otherwise. With a committee statistician and a dedicated protocol coordinator, not to mention experience working across disease sites, Early Therapeutics is already well equipped to coordinate the initiation and movement of rare cancer clinical research ideas from concept to capsule to full protocol to activation and completion.

With an appropriate update to its name (Early Therapeutics and Rare Tumors Committee would be my not brilliant but straightforward choice), the Committee will also be well-situated to engage some of the challenges that the original Task Force was convened to address, such as development of mechanisms for promoting rare cancer studies across our group and across the NCTN.

Conducting rare-cancer studies is something the NCI wants all network groups to undertake; we now have a terrific approach to doing just this. If you've been nurturing an idea for the study of a rare cancer or a rare subtype of a common cancer with identified molecular drivers (many of these trials will likely in the future be shared between the ETRTC and our classic disease committees), opportunity knocks.


P.S.: Our own Dr. Roy Herbst testified on Wednesday at a Congressional hearing on "21st-Century Cures: Modernizing Clinical Trials" on the improvements to the clinical research process being realized in planning and launching the lung master protocol, or Lung-MAP Study. It's exciting to hear his opening statement in particular, which you can find at the 39-minute mark in the recorded testimony at http://1.usa.gov/1jyY1Qm. He also announces the enrollment of the first patient to Lung-MAP!


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