Nurturing cancer survivorship research in the CCOPs
-- by Laurence Baker, D.O., SWOG chair
I attended several strategic planning meetings during the spring and summer for the National Cancer Institute's Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP), serving as a member of the CCOP Core Committee.
The primary question we addressed was this: What are the areas of potential research that lend themselves to clinical trials for the CCOP/Research Base network?
By the close of the meeting, cancer survivorship had found its way to the top of our research agenda as our highest priority area for study. We recognized that the CCOPs are ideally suited to conduct the sort of long-term follow-up with patients that is needed to answer questions about the late effects of treatment, toxicity, and disease.
These would include longitudinal studies of symptoms and toxicities and would integrate measures of patient-reported outcomes and the collection of biospecimens to develop means of predicting toxicities.
That the CCOP Core Committee highlighted survivorship research is further evidence that SWOG was again ahead of the curve in forming our Cancer Survivorship Committee as part of the reorganization of the Cancer Control and Prevention committees under Dr. Frank Meyskens in 2007. Advances in cancer treatment mean we have more cancer survivors than ever before, survivors often living with functional impairments due to treatment toxicities. This population is going to garner an ever larger proportion of the attention of cancer researchers in the coming years.
One of the critical issues the CCOP Core Committee addressed was how to attract new researchers to explore cancer control and prevention topics. We agreed we need to expand training and mentorship programs for younger investigators planning cancer control and prevention studies.
The committee's report specifically mentions SWOG's Young Investigators (YI) Training Course program as a model to be emulated. In fact, seven of the protocol proposals that have been critiqued and refined in recent YI sessions have been cancer control studies.
A number of SWOG leaders were active in formulating the strategic plan for cancer control research that came out of these meetings, including Dr. Christine Ambrosone, co-chair of SWOG's Molecular Epidemiology Committee; Dr. Frank Meyskens, SWOG associate chair for cancer control and prevention; and Dr. James Wade, co-chair of SWOG's Symptom Control and Quality of Life Committee.
Here are a few others from our group who also contributed to these discussions (apologies if I've missed any names):
- Jeffrey Berenberg, M.D., Hawaii MBCCOP
- Elise Cook, M.D., MD Anderson Cancer Center
- Joyce Nancarrow Tull, R.N., B.S.N., C.C.R.P., Beaumont CCOP
- Clair Verschraegen, M.D., New Mexico MBCCOP
One final word on CCOPs: congratulations to all of those SWOG-affiliated CCOPs that have had their funding renewed for another grant cycle (see the list elsewhere in this Update).
These programs are a vital part of what SWOG is and does. As a group, their average accrual of patients to SWOG studies is second only to that of our U10 institutions. Their work brings clinical cancer research to communities that might not otherwise have access, but it also helps ensure that the population we draw on for our studies is more representative of the population of the United States at large.