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

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Peru: The Next Stop for Our Clinical Trials Training Program

August 8, 2016 - In two weeks, I travel to Peru for the second installment of our biostatistical and clinical trials training program, conducted under the SWOG Latin America Initiative. Organized by former SWOG statistician Dr. John Crowley, now chief of strategic alliances for Cancer Research And Biostatistics (CRAB), the course is further fruit which grew from our international efforts – efforts we hope will reduce the cancer burden in our own Latino population and indeed worldwide.

Our operations and stats center teams will work for two days with about 50 Peruvian physicians, scientists, and research staff at the Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Neoplasicas (INEN) in Lima. INEN is Peru’s equivalent of the National Cancer Institute.

As we did in Mexico City in March, we’ll explain SWOG and the NCTN, and talk about the importance of clinical trials. We’ll provide quite a bit of “how-to” – protocol development, specimen banking, data submission, and database management. The second day of the course is devoted to statistics, including trial design, analysis, and integration of biomarkers in Phase II and Phase III trials.

Last year, the NCI signed a memorandum of understanding with INEN that strengthens relations between the U.S. and Peru and provides a framework for knowledge exchange and cancer research. We are trying to advance those aims.

In Peru, the picture is getting brighter. Peru has a national cancer plan – Plan Esperanza (Hope Plan) – and a national cancer registry. INEN is also building an outpatient tower for minimally invasive procedures and precision medicine. Still, stomach cancer rates are alarmingly high, as are rates of cervical and prostate tumors. Poverty, and the isolation of patients in the rural Andes and Amazon, can hamper cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. In fact, according to INEN, about 75 percent of the patients it treats live in poverty. INEN, though, is building new cancer centers in the mountains and the jungle, and is clearly expanding its presence and impact.

SWOG’s Latin America Initiative, like many of our programs, hopes to leverage monies from The Hope Foundation into sustainable federal funding. I am very excited to tell you that Dr. Crowley will submit a grant proposal to the NCI this week, requesting five years of funding for course training in Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Chile, and Uruguay. Dr. Crowley has my thanks, as does my friend Dr. Tatiana Vidaurre, the chief of INEN, who will spend both days with us in Lima.

We continue to try to make change on a global scale. As for me, I will be hiking the Inca Trail and climbing Huayna Picchu. If I don’t fall off, stay tuned for some glorious pictures!


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