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

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An NCORP by Any Other Name . . .

Oct 10, 2014 - Community oncology practices have been integral to SWOG's research at least since the development of the former Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) in the early 1980s. Now, with the advent of the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) era, the initials have changed, and the administrative picture has been redrawn, but the underlying relationships remain strong and the goals are unchanged: to engage community-based physicians with publicly-funded clinical oncology research, and to bring clinical trial opportunities to cancer patients who do not live near major academic medical centers. In this new era, SWOG's drive to help the NCI achieve these goals is even stronger.

SWOG's NCORP Research Base application earned a pretty nice score (see my Front Line of May 30), but in a time of austere federal funding, even an outstanding score does not always translate into getting the full research budget requested. In our case we came close, but we do see deficits in some areas. Even full funding does not guarantee the ability to do everything we desire; we were maximally funded for our Cancer Care Delivery Research core, for example, but we also know we need additional grant funding to realize our CCD research ambitions, particularly funding for the expanded scope of work our Statistical Center is taking on. In short, some challenges remain.

Among the pieces of good news: Of the 46 NCORPs newly funded across the country, more than two dozen have affiliated themselves with SWOG's NCORP Research Base. Many of these are essentially new incarnations of previous CCOPs. All were selected via a highly competitive grant review (there were formerly 63 CCOPs/MB-CCOPs). SWOG-affiliated NCORPs also scored particularly well in their sections on Cancer Care Delivery Research.

The grant application process made it clear that going forward we have to do an even better job of engaging our community sites in meaningful ways. SWOG is exploring ways our research base can better serve its sites, and ways we can more fully integrate our community oncologists into committee work, trial design, and more. For example, SWOG's intensified commitment to our community oncology partners is evident in the schedule for this month's group meeting. It starts with a Wednesday morning and afternoon NCORP planning retreat for Group leadership and extends to a reinstated Saturday session for NCORP PIs. In between are multiple sessions on Survivorship, Prevention, Screening, Epidemiology, Symptom Control & Quality of Life, Cancer Care Delivery, and much more.

In coming months we will have plenty more to say about our NCORP Research Base and about working with our NCORP sites, so watch this space.


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