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

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Cooperative Group Research: Proud Past, Exciting Present, Promising Future

Oct. 23, 2015 - Last year, I wrote to you about an opportunity for SWOG. We were invited to edit and mostly pen an issue of Seminars in Oncology, one that would focus on the opportunities and challenges of conducting cooperative group cancer trials. After a boatload of work by my very diligent authors, that issue has arrived.

The October 2015 edition of Seminars showcases the past impact and future promise of the NCI's National Cancer Trials Network. I sit on the editorial board of the journal and co-edited the issue with Dr. Walter Curran, one of my counterparts in the NRG Oncology Group. Our conclusion, which should not come as a surprise to Frontline readers: Cooperative groups are more viable, vibrant, and significant than ever before.

In our introduction, Dr. Curran and I note that these six groups, with more than 60 years of history, conduct high-impact trials that change cancer medicine. Borrowing from a nice piece by Dr. Richard Schilsky, ASCO Chief Medical Officer (J Clin Oncol 2014), we remind Seminars readers that our research has lead to FDA approval of drugs for prostate, ovarian, bladder, and colon cancers, as well as leukemias. Cures for many pediatric cancers have come out of cooperative group research, as have better chemotherapy regimes, more effective prevention strategies, and innovative therapies that combine chemotherapy with radiation and surgery.

In fact, the entire cancer research community benefits from our work.

Cooperative group research data and biological specimens are broadly cited and widely used, leading to more breakthroughs. For example, we note that the SWOG biorepository containing specimens from the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention and Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) -- the nation's largest prostate cancer prevention trial -- has been mined often and well, leading to the publication of 183 scientific papers in the last five years alone.

But the bulk of the new Seminars issue looks to the future. Many SWOG members are charting and even creating it. In the journal, they repeatedly investigate emerging issues in cancer science and medicine and describe ways to improve our work:

  • Dr. James Wade III and colleagues write on successful strategies used by sites in the new National Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). Read article
  • Dr. Manuel Valdivieso and colleagues write about the need to expand cooperative group research to the international stage. Read article
  • Dr. George Miles and colleagues write on genetic testing and tissue banking in the new era of personalized medicine. Read article
  • Dr. Mary Redman describes the master protocol concept of trial design, the DNA-driven protocol masterfully executed in our Lung-MAP trial. Read article
  • Dr. Anne Schott and colleagues detail how the NCTN's broad reach makes the study of rare cancers feasible. Read article
  • Dr. Aaron Weiss and colleagues discuss strategies to expand research in adolescent and young adult oncology. Read article
  • Dr. Lori Minasian and colleagues make a case for the major impact cooperative group data and biospecimens have on cancer research. Read article
  • Dr. Mark Lewis charts the past, present, and future of social media to increase communication and collaboration, and improve trial design and accrual. Read article
  • Finally, Jane Perlmutter and colleagues (including Nancy Roach, who graced our Chicago plenary two weeks ago) write about the benefits of involving patient advocates in research. Read article

To get the new issue of Seminars, visit seminoncol.org. It's a good read, if I do say so myself.


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