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

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Some Reflections On Our 2015 Achievements

Dec. 25, 2015 - As we celebrate the holiday season and close out the year, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for helping SWOG and our patients, and to remind you of the important accomplishments we achieved together in 2015 -- and of the real impact we've made.

We welcomed 524 new investigators and 233 new member sites to SWOG. We opened five SWOG trials and activated four others led by our partners in the National Cancer Institute's National Cancer Trials Network. We published 98 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and presented 79 oral abstracts or posters at scientific meetings around the globe.

And more than 60 SWOG members now serve on NCI scientific steering committees or other major review boards, helping set the national cancer research agenda for years to come.

But that's not all. I'm stealing an idea from Dr. Allen Lichter, ASCO CEO, by presenting the "State of the SWOG:"

    We advanced research by:
  • Launching our VA Integration Support Program, which provided five VA medical centers with a total of $125,000 to expand military veterans' access to cancer trials.
  • Filling a new membership staff position in SWOG Operations, aimed at further helping VA sites navigate the NCTN.
  • Activating a major revision to Lung-MAP, our historic precision medicine lung cancer trial.
  • Forging ahead in translational medicine, holding a workshop at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and forming a pharmacogenomics subcommittee within our pharmacy sciences committee.
  • Reporting results of S0819, which demonstrated that the addition of cetuximab to chemotherapy given to advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients with EGFR gene mutations reduced the risk of death by 44 percent.
  • Reporting on S0777, which showed that the combination of bortezomib, lenalidomide, and dexamethasone delays recurrence and lengthens life for myeloma patients, indicating a new standard of care.
  • Completing analysis of the first NCTN experience in HIV-positive patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • Developing a parallel study to the NCI-MATCH precision medicine trial, with a focus on patients with rare cancers.
  • Reporting results of S0809, which revealed an effective adjuvant regime for patients with bile duct cancer and gallbladder cancer and which will guide the next large Phase III trial in this population, a trial likely conducted by SWOG.

    We supported our members by:
  • Increasing our number of patient advocate positions from 13 to 16 and dedicating our fall plenary session to patient advocacy.
  • Creating and approving a new leadership development course aimed at helping young investigators navigate the National Cancer Trials Network.
  • Launching a huge overhaul of SWOG.org, and creating the digital engagement and publications committees to improve how we get our message -- and our results -- out to the public.

In this season of light, I truly feel that SWOG shined in 2015 and that our future is quite bright. I wish you happy holidays.

We did not find an interesting translational medicine link this week, and since Drs. Ellis and Rae always say "You get your best ideas when you're not working," we're skipping the link today. And there will be no link or blog on New Year's Day. Enjoy this time with family and friends, recharge your batteries, and help us continue to innovate in 2016.