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

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WATTBAS in The Windy City

Oct. 16, 2015 - In the Gold Coast room at the Hyatt Regency Chicago last week, Dr. Mark Lewis declared "WATTBA!" to the Social Media Working Group attendees at the table. Apparently, that is digital shorthand for "What A Time To Be Alive," and all the cool kids use that phrase.

I liked the saying. So I stole it, tweaked it, and tossed it out from the plenary podium last week, at our fall meeting. I ended the general keynote with "WATTBAS!" That's new Group Chair shorthand for "What A Time To Be At SWOG."

And it truly is. Chicago showed me, and I hope the other 1,027 attendees who came from far and wide to improve and expand our cancer clinical trials. There is fresh energy moving through our membership. Young leaders, innovative science, and new ideas for engaging the public and patients in our work made the fall meeting a particularly exciting one.

Big ideas abounded. Here are some of my highlights:

  • Three clear and cogent speakers -- Drs. Robert Anders, Elise Kohn, and Gary Schwartz -- discussed timely translational medicine topics at Plenary I.
  • Two compelling speakers -- Dr. Mira Katz and Nancy Roach -- at Plenary II discussed the impact of pulling patients into the trial development process, including how to do it both early and right. They were followed by a panel discussion delving deeper into these issues.
  • A standing-room-only crowd for an update on Lung-MAP, a major clinical trial and the first large-scale bucket precision medicine study launched with National Cancer Institute support. Stay tuned for exciting changes there.
  • A busy ballroom serving as space for our first-ever research workshop for NCORP members, which attracted hundreds of investigators and research staff from community hospitals and oncology practices.
  • Big buzzing out of the Imaging Committee, the SWOG Latin America Initiative, the Social Media Working Group, the Adolescent and Young Adult Committee, the Recruitment and Retention Core Meeting, and our own executive leadership retreat. Invigorating!
  • Board of Governors approval of two new administrative committees, one for publications and one for digital engagement, both carrying the promise to keep innovation, inclusion, and integrity in our work.
  • Dozens of member, staff, and patient advocate interviews and surveys, thanks to Pete and Laura from iFactory, the Boston digital firm conducting our needs assessment for SWOG.org. A functional, beautiful new website is just around the corner.

Additionally, so many sidebar sessions took place in the conference rooms and corridors. Those spontaneous connections, with the promise of future SWOG studies keep me motivated. We've got a great team pushing toward our goal of conducting the very best cancer clinical trials.


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