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

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A "Final Progress Report" on the Pre-NCTN SWOG

Mar 20, 2015 - Next week we will send the National Cancer Institute our final progress report, related to the final treatment grant awarded to the group under the pre-NCTN regime. From one perspective it's the closing out of an era. In reality, though, SWOG continues with the same basic (fancy new wording though!) mission that has driven it for more than half a century -- to design and conduct the best clinical trials we can to prevent and treat cancer. Here, in no particular order, are some of the most notable advances in cancer treatment we reported from 2010 through 2014.

  • S0232 helped establish lenalidomide as part of standard front-line induction therapy for multiple myeloma
  • S0325 confirmed the use of dasatinib over then standard imatinib as first line therapy in chronic myelogenous leukemia
  • S0008 showed improved progression-free survival from a shorter course of bio-chemotherapy when compared to standard high-dose interferon as adjuvant therapy in high-risk melanoma
  • S0226 demonstrated that adding fulvestrant to anastrozole therapy significantly lengthened overall survival in hormone-receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer
  • S1108 confirmed the activity of alisertib in patients with peripheral T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • S0802 showed that adding aflibercept to topotecan improved progression-free survival in patients with extensive stage small cell lung cancer
  • S9346 found that intermittent androgen-deprivation therapy (ADT) was not non-inferior to continuous ADT for metastatic prostate cancer
  • CALGB/SWOG 80405 showed that bevacizumab and cetuximab were equally effective and significantly lengthened overall survival when either was combined with first-line chemotherapy for metastatic colorectal cancer
  • S0230 demonstrated that adding goserelin to chemotherapy helped prevent ovarian failure and preserve fertility in women with early-stage breast cancer

This is by no means a comprehensive list of significant treatment trial results reported in the last grant cycle, and of course it represents research that in some cases was begun decades earlier.

Also, in telling the story of our progress during this five-year cycle, we have the opportunity to chronicle group achievements that aren't directly obvious in peer-reviewed articles.

  • SWOG added two basic science members (Cold Spring Harbor and Jackson Laboratories), the first cooperative group to do so. This led to a successful application as an NCI National Clinical Trials Network Group Integrated Translational Science Center. The two laboratories combined are home to more than 30 Nobel Laureates.
  • SWOG realized significant efficiency and quality gains by consolidating its four biospecimen banks, spread across the country, into a single biobank at Nationwide Children's Hospital Biopathology Center in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Halfway through this grant period, SWOG efficiently transitioned to new group leadership -- including transitioning grants between universities -- without interrupting ongoing clinical trials or the development of new trials. I am especially pleased with the recruitment and/or "promotion" of Dr. Lee Ellis, to the position of Vice-Chair for Translational Medicine, and Dr. Anne Schott, from Executive Officer to Deputy Chair. Their contributions to the Group could themselves take up 4 or 5 Frontlines, but here are two major ones:
    • Dr. Ellis transitioned the Scientific Advisory Board to an Innovation Committee, to further our goals of studying pathway inhibition as a model for personalized oncology care delivery.
    • Under the direction of Dr. Schott, SWOG extensively overhauled its Membership policy in recognition of new structuring demanded by the NCTN.
  • SWOG greatly expanded professional development opportunities for investigators at its semi-annual group meetings, implementing a second plenary session focused specifically on translational medicine issues and adding numerous workshops, round tables, and "office hour" opportunities to meet with and learn from a wide range of both clinical and basic science experts. The group also instituted additional formal mentoring outreach activities targeted specifically at early career investigators (one tangible outcome of its new Young Investigator Task Force).
  • SWOG initiated a new Learning Management System with online training capabilities for Group Members. A diverse array of modules for all levels of membership (Study Chairs, PIs, RNs, data managers, and more) are currently in development, and the system is being directly integrated with the Statistical Center database. A new educator, responsible for developing and monitoring training, was hired within the Operations Office Administration.
  • Significant effort during the grant period went into expanding the group into Latin America, including incorporation of 3 international sites as members (from Colombia, Peru, and Mexico). More recently, SWOG has been asked by the NCI Center for Global Health to help advise and develop educational programs for a Latin America Clinical Research Network.

The items above barely begin to tell the complex story of SWOG's most recent grant cycle, but they represent a catalogue of achievement that should make us all proud of the work we do.


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