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The Front Line


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

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Are We Really Making An Impact?

December 23, 2016 - Here at the bottom of 2016, I’m thinking a lot about impact. I refuse to use the word “impactful,” but I want our work to actually make a difference, as you do, for oncology research and the public we serve.

We’ve had a raft of impressive SWOG research results recently, and we sent out press releases out this week on two important findings. They’re classic SWOG – a negative finding by Dr. Peter Lance blows another hole in the idea that antioxidant supplements prevent cancer. The other is a positive result in The Lancet by Dr. Brian Durie, illustrates the promise of a new triple drug combination for myeloma. What a great way to end the year!

For SWOG, 2016 was a big year. We celebrated our 60th anniversary together, and reviewed our work formally. Since 1956, our research has led to FDA approval of 14 new drugs. We’ve changed the standard of care in cancer over 100 times. And, thanks to innovative biostatistical work by our own Dr. Joe Unger, I was able to announce from the plenary podium in Chicago that our research studies have saved more than 2 million years of human life. From that same stage, Craig Blanford, a bladder cancer survivor from Texas treated on our own BCG immunotherapy protocol, called you all heroes. Which you are.

All the progress SWOG has made comes thanks to our patients and to you. Members drive our organization. You come up with compelling trial ideas, and develop strong protocols that make testing them possible. You help SWOG better manage our trials, better improve accrual, and better connect with each other. SWOG members bring the best science into our work, and bring in the best new minds in cancer research into the group.

What kind of end-of-the year column doesn’t fundraise a little bit? Not this one! Earlier this year, The Hope Foundation launched a matching campaign. If we gave $100,000, we’d get through a generous match a total of $200,000 to support research, training, and travel for SWOG young investigators. Hope is only about $20,000 shy of their goal. A series of small donations or just a few well-heeled members giving more generous gifts will help us get there.

In 2017, I’ll continue to focus on impact. I’ll be working with my leadership team on a dashboard that will show key data points – such as accrual and time to trial – that we can use to improve our work. When this column resumes January 6, it will include SWOG’s first annual impact report, with statistics and highlights from 2016.

So, do we make an impact? I think you know my answer. Thank you for your service to SWOG, and happiest holiday season to you. See you in the new year.

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