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SWOG Leadership

Members of SWOG (formerly the Southwest Oncology Group) are top medical researchers at institutions across the United States. In addition to SWOG Chair Charles D. Blanke, M.D., the Group leadership includes:

SWOG Deputy Chair Anne F. Schott, M.D.
SWOG Vice-Chair for Translational Medicine Lee M. Ellis, M.D.
SWOG Associate Chair for Cancer Control and Prevention
Frank L. Meyskens, Jr., M.D.
SWOG Statistician Michael LeBlanc, Ph.D.
SWOG Executive Officers

SWOG Chair Charles D. Blanke, M.D.

Charles D. Blanke, M.D. On April 14, 2012, at the group's spring meeting in San Francisco, SWOG's board of governors selected Charles D. Blanke to be the group's next chair. After serving as chair-elect for one year, Blanke became SWOG chair on May 1, 2013, at the expiration of the term of outgoing SWOG chair, Laurence H. Baker, D.O.

Blanke is professor of medicine at the Knight Cancer Institute at the Oregon Health and Science University. Until recently, he was vice-president of systemic therapy for the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver, and professor and chief of medical oncology at the University of British Columbia. A member of SWOG since 1999, he served as chair of the group's Gastrointestinal Committee from 2003 to 2013. He also chairs the Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST) Task Force for the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Gastrointestinal Steering Committee.

He has a particular interest in pathway-driven oncology research, having been instrumental in the development of imatinib mesylate for use in patients with locally advanced and metastatic gastrointestinal stromal tumors.

Blanke earned an M.D. with distinction from Northwestern University, completed residency training at the Gundersen Medical Foundation, where he served as chief resident, and was a hematology/medical oncology fellow at Indiana University, where he also served as chief fellow. He has also served on the faculty of Vanderbilt University.

Blanke is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), an honor formerly known as the ASCO Statesman Award.

SWOG Deputy Chair Anne F. Schott, M.D.

Dr. SchottAnne F. Schott, M.D., is associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. A medical oncologist with a clinical emphasis on breast cancer, her research interests include therapeutic clinical trials in breast cancer and the integration of medical imaging into clinical trials and clinical care.

The varied and complementary roles she has held within SWOG have given Schott insight into cooperative group research and operations from multiple perspectives. As Deputy Chair she provides both historical perspective on SWOG's past and keen insight into the effective restructuring of SWOG as part of the new National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN).

From 2005 to 2013, she served as an executive officer of SWOG, with oversight of breast, lung, and gynecologic cancers. She also served for a time as PI for the University of Michigan's membership within SWOG and in recent years has been the single leading accruer to SWOG trials at her home institution.

She is a member of SWOG's Board of Governors, Breast Cancer Committee, Breast Translational Medicine Subcommittee, Lung Committee, and Imaging Committee. She also serves as a member of the board of The Hope Foundation and is founding medical director of the highly successful SWOG-Clinical Trials Initiative (SWOG-CTI).

After receiving her M.D. from the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Schott moved to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to complete a residency in internal medicine. She came to the University of Michigan through the medical oncology fellowship program in 1993 and joined the faculty in 1996.

SWOG Vice-Chair for Translational Medicine Lee M. Ellis, M.D.

Lee Ellis, M.D. Lee M. Ellis, M.D., is professor of surgical oncology and cancer biology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Ellis oversees SWOG's basic and translational science research, working with the SWOG chair to set overall scientific vision and strategy for the Group, to derive important translational policy, and to coordinate efforts of the translational medicine subcommittee chairs within each disease area. He works with Drs. Rae, Baker, and Schott to direct SWOG interactions with basic science partners Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and The Jackson Laboratory, and also leads SWOG's Innovation Working Group.

Ellis completed his surgical oncology fellowship at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he has been on faculty since 1993. His clinical practice is in surgical oncology, focused on patients with colorectal cancer and liver metastases. With more than 210 peer-reviewed publications, 110 invited reviews and editorials, three books, and 30 book chapters to his credit, he has established a reputation for expertise in the area of angiogenesis, growth factor receptors, and cancer stem cells in gastrointestinal malignancies, and he is funded by several grants involving research in these areas. He has served on numerous National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) study sections; is a consultant to the National Cancer Institute in several roles; and has held leadership positions in major cancer societies such as ASCO, AACR, the Society of Surgical Oncology, and the Keystone Scientific Symposium.

As chair of ASCO's Cancer Research Committee, Ellis is heading an effort to define "clinically meaningful outcomes" for several neoplastic types, consistent with his perspective that we must raise the bar for clinical trials and not accept meager gains that represent little benefit to patients.

SWOG Associate Chair for Cancer Control and Prevention Frank L. Meyskens, Jr., M.D.

Frank Meyskens, Jr., M.D. Frank L. Meyskens, Jr., M.D., was appointed the Group's first associate chair for cancer control and prevention in September 2007. Meyskens was the founding director of the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California-Irvine Medical Center for 22 years and is now director emeritus and vice dean of the School of Medicine, where he has taken on the complex issue of the role of clinical research and prevention in the new ACO era, an issue which will become increasingly important for SWOG in the near future. He is also professor of medicine, biological chemistry, and public health.

For more than two decades, he has led innovative chemoprevention trials and established cancer prevention research programs at several institutions. He has championed research in prevention and cancer control in leadership posts at the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Association of Cancer Research, and served in many key advisory roles with the National Cancer Institute. Currently he serves on the NCI's National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) Working Group.

In his position with SWOG, Meyskens shapes forward-looking initiatives that build on the lessons of past chemoprevention and cancer control studies and pushes for answers to the field's most puzzling questions. Building on the Group's past track record in initiating important cancer control and prevention trials, Meyskens works closely with the NCI's Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) network.

The cancer control efforts Meyskens directs within SWOG include research into prevention, genetic, and environmental factors and special populations, as well as quality-of-life issues and symptom control and outcomes in treatment settings and survivorship. He also advises on the evolving role of comparative effectiveness and care and delivery research.

SWOG Group Statistician Michael LeBlanc, Ph.D.

Michael LeBlanc, Ph.D. Michael LeBlanc, Ph.D., was named SWOG group statistician in April, 2012, by the group's board of governors.

A statistician with SWOG for almost two decades, LeBlanc served as lead statistician for the Lymphoma Committee prior to being named SWOG group statistician. His research interests include the design and analysis of trials, methods for exploratory analysis of survival data, adaptive non-parametric regression, and new methods for analyzing genomic data. He is primary investigator on a National Cancer Institute R01 grant titled "Statistical Methods for Clinical Studies." and is an author or coauthor on more than 120 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, many reporting on, or growing out of, his work on SWOG clinical trials.

LeBlanc earned his Ph.D. in biostatistics from the University of Washington in 1989 and was then a faculty member at the University of Toronto from 1990-1994. He is currently a full member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a research professor in the University of Washington's Department of Biostatistics. He holds a B.Sc. in mathematics from Simon Fraser University and an M.Math. in statistics from the University of Waterloo.


Executive Officers

SWOG has seven executive officers. Their duties are to facilitate and oversee the development of clinical trials according to their specific area of responsibility, serve as key advisors to the SWOG chair, act as liaisons for the Group to the National Cancer Institute, and report to the chair on the direction and progress of the Group's scientific endeavors under their purview.

Julie R. Gralow, M.D.: Breast and lung cancer research

Julie Gralow, M.D. Julie R. Gralow, M.D., director of Breast Medical Oncology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, is SWOG's executive officer with responsibility for breast and lung studies. Prior to this role she served as vice-chair of SWOG's Breast Committee from 2000 to 2012, and was an executive member of the SWOG Survivorship Committee from 2000 to 2011.

Gralow has served as both junior and senior study chair for several therapeutic trials in the SWOG Breast Committee, including S0307, a 6,000-patient randomized, phase III trial of bisphosphonates to reduce recurrence in breast cancer. Since 2008 she has served as an alternate member of the NCI Breast Cancer Steering Committee (BCSC) and is a full member of the BCSC's correlative science committee. In 2007 she co-chaired the National Cancer Institute (NCI) State of the Science Conference on Preoperative Therapy in Breast Cancer. She also served on the NCI Subcommittee H grant review committee.

Gralow earned her undergraduate degree from Stanford University and her M.D. from the University of Southern California. She completed her residency in internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School and a medical oncology fellowship at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Gralow is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Lisa A. Kachnic, M.D.: Multi-modality research

Lisa Kachnic, M.D. Lisa A. Kachnic, M.D., chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Boston Medical Center, is SWOG executive officer focused on multi-modality integration, ensuring that SWOG investigators who represent a discipline or modality other than medical oncology also have a seat at the leadership table.

Kachnic has had a longstanding national clinical trial leadership position within the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), where she served as chair of its Symptom Management Committee from 2003 to 2010 and, since 2010, as vice-chair of its CCOPs. Within SWOG she is vice-chair of the Radiation Oncology Committee and co-chair of the Ano-rectal Subcommittee. In addition, Kachnic is PI of the Boston Medical Center Minority-Based CCOP and serves as a trustee (radiation oncology) for the American Board of Radiology.

After earning her undergraduate degree from Boston College and her medical degree from Tufts University, Kachnic completed her residency in radiation oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital, serving in her last year as chief resident. Her primary areas of interest include colorectal and anal malignancies, image-guided radiation delivery, outcomes/symptoms management research, and translational research. Her current laboratory work relates to the development of potential targets for molecularly directed therapies by identifying genetic defects in the DNA repair pathway involving the Fanconi Anemia genes.

Craig R. Nichols, M.D.: Cancer control and prevention research

Craig Nichols, M.D. Craig R. Nichols, M.D., of Virginia Mason Medical Center, is SWOG executive officer with a portfolio covering cancer control and prevention studies.

Nichols is a leading authority on testicular cancer, with more than 25 years of specialized patient care and research. He directs the Seattle-based Testicular Cancer Consortium, a team of scientists who conduct epidemiological treatment research and basic science research in testicular cancer. He also specializes in lymphoma, adolescent and young adult oncology, and cancer survivorship.

After earning his medical degree from Oregon Health Sciences Center, Nichols completed fellowships in hematology at University of Miami of Florida, and in hematology and oncology at Indiana University in Indianapolis. Nichols was formerly professor of medicine and the DeArmond Chair of Clinical Cancer Research at Oregon Health and Science University, where he served as head of the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology and as associate director of the Cancer Institute. He is a board member for the Livestrong Foundation and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians

Susan M. O'Brien, M.D.: Leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma research

Susan O'Brien, M.D. Susan M. O'Brien, M.D., of UC Irvine Medical Center, is SWOG executive officer with responsibility to oversee leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma clinical research.

O'Brien is a long-time member of SWOG's Leukemia Committee and is study co-chair on SWOG transplant study S0805. She is chair of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Institutional Review Board (IRB), chair of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) Guidelines Committee, and a member of the NCCN Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) Guidelines Committee.

O'Brien earned her M.D. from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, where she also went on to a residency in internal medicine. She completed a fellowship at MD Anderson before joining the faculty there. She has authored or co-authored more than 500 articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

James M. Rae, Ph.D.: Translational medicine and biospecimen banking

James M. Rae, Ph.D.James ("Jimmy") M. Rae, Ph.D., is an associate professor of internal medicine and pharmacology at the University of Michigan. As an executive officer, he supervises the use of the SWOG Biorepository, advises the Group on developing basic science methods and technologies, reviews study capsules and protocols, and acts as a basic science advisor to both the vice-chair for translational medicine and the group chair.

Rae earned his doctorate in pharmacology from Georgetown University and has been at the University of Michigan since 2001, where his laboratory research focuses on the areas of drug metabolism, pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics, and biomarker identification and characterization, particularly as these may apply to the prediction of breast cancer treatment response.

Rae holds a five-year R01 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and he receives additional support from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. He is also part of the NIH-funded COnsortium on BReast cAncer pharmacogenomics, or COBRA, a multi-institution, multi-disciplinary collaboration of laboratory, clinical, and statistical investigators.

Christopher W. Ryan, M.D.: Gastrointestinal, genitourinary, melanoma, and early therapeutics research

Christopher Ryan, M.D. Christopher W. Ryan, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, is SWOG executive officer overseeing studies in gastrointestinal and genitourinary cancers and melanoma, and SWOG's experimental therapeutics program.

He has been an active member of the SWOG Genitourinary Committee since 2003, and has served as study chair for several SWOG trials, including the current S0931 Intergroup phase III adjuvant renal carcinoma study (EVEREST). He was a recipient of the first NCI Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Awards in 2009 for administrative leadership roles in promoting NCI-sponsored studies at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, where he has been institutional SWOG principal investigator since 2004. He served as an executive officer for the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) from 2000 to 2003.

Ryan specializes in the treatment of sarcomas and genitourinary cancers, with a research focus on clinical trial development of new treatments for renal carcinoma and sarcomas. His particular interests include multimodality treatment of high-risk soft tissue sarcomas and functional imaging assessment of therapeutic agents. After earning his M.D. from the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse, Ryan completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in hematology/oncology at the University of Chicago.

Manuel Valdivieso, M.D.: International initiatives and quality initiative

Manuel Valdivieso, M.D.Manuel Valdivieso, M.D., is a clinical professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. As a senior executive officer, he is responsible for quality assurance and international initiatives for SWOG. The Group's international affiliations have expanded under Valdivieso's leadership, and SWOG has in the past several years welcomed members from Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, and Valdivieso continues to build collaborations in countries throughout Central and South America.

Valdivieso earned his M.D. from San Marcos University Medical School in Lima, Peru. A SWOG member for more than 25 years, his professional experience includes a faculty position at MD Anderson in Houston, where he completed his fellowship in medical oncology and co-led multidisciplinary thoracic oncology. At Wayne State University in Detroit, he led oncology and founded a multidisciplinary thoracic oncology program, in addition to serving as chief medical officer for the Karmanos Cancer Institute. His wide expertise takes in areas as diverse as thoracic malignancies, clinical trials design, and development of multidisciplinary teams. He also holds a master's degree in administrative medicine from the University of Wisconsin. Valdivieso is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Chest Physicians.


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