SWOG and The Hope Foundation, in collaboration with Genentech, launched a multi-phased, multi-year initiative to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) among SWOG leadership, membership, and throughout its cancer clinical trials. These efforts are being led by the Vice Chair for DEI and Professional Integrity, Don S. Dizon, MD, named to this role in 2022.
Updates from the Vice chair
Detailed below is the ongoing work to embed the landscape of SWOG with DEI principles, updated in October 2023.
I want to take this opportunity to officially welcome our new co-chairs of the patient advocate committee (PAC), Anne Marie Mercurio and Dr. Barbara Segarra, and to provide my heartfelt gratitude to Rick Bangs and Hildy Dillon, who previously lead the PAC to its prominence within the National Clinical Trials Network and internationally.
DEI is embedded as part of SWOG’s Mission and Values
A common question is about the mission of DEI at SWOG. As we move forward into a new grant cycle, the strategic vision of SWOG will not envision DEI as a stand-alone pillar. Rather, it will be woven into all that we do within the organization, extending to all that we do for and with people with cancer. This was reflected in the updated vision statement presented in the October 2023 meeting in Chicago. Importantly, the realization of the principles of DEI will need everyone’s participation, rather than the job of a select few. Ultimately, DEI is about belonging. It is the idea that each of us has something to contribute to help move the bar in the prevention, screening, treatment, and support for people with cancer.
View Dr. Dizon’s fall 2023 SWOG group meeting update [DOWNLOAD SLIDES]
DEI Town Hall
At the fall SWOG group meeting we welcomed Dr. Chris Cross, the Director of Health Equity Strategies at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, at our first Town Hall on DEI. Dr. Cross provided an overview of the DEI work within ASCO. Important programs that members should be aware of include the Research Self-Assessment, a collaboration with the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACC). The tool allows sites to identify the opportunities to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion in clinical research and provides the opportunity to perform an internal review of their programs, policies, and procedures. . An evaluation of the self-assessment was published at the JCO Oncology Practice. In addition, Dr. Cross emphasized that a major goal of the Cancer Moonshot is to address cancer-associated inequities, which is embedded in the National Cancer Plan.
Led by Dr. Irene Tami-Maury, the leadership council had its inaugural meeting in San Francisco, spring 2023. This small group will advise the Vice Chair as we integrate the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in SWOG. A major objective that the council would like to embark upon a survey on the practices within the committees and what efforts in DEI they are embarking on. We hope to finalize and get approval for the survey by the end of the year.
The first group of DEI champions have completed their two-year term and will continue on their respective committees, at the discretion of the Chair. We believe it has been quite successful, and highlight that Dr. Manuel Gutarra, Assistant Professor at University of Alabama at Birmingham, was awarded a Robert A. Winn Diversity in Clinical Trials: Career Development Award, based on his work on S2209, a phase 3 trial comparing drug combinations to treat patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma not suitable candidates for stem cell transplantation.
Spotlight: External Funding Opportunity
For investigators committed to improving diversity in clinical trials, the next call for applications for the Winn CDA begins in January 2024; Dr. Dizon is available to advise and support any SWOG investigators interested in pursuing this.
Our gratitude goes out to Dina Lansey and Dr. Manmeet Ahluwalia, the inaugural co-chairs of the DEI Committee. Both have stepped down following our October meeting and as such, the committee will be paused while the VC of DEI and Leadership Council determine the needs within DEI and what a standing DEI committee would do as far as mission and deliverables. Our aim is to re-launch a committee whose focus is DEI in the fall of 2024.
Minority/Underserved Recruitment Initiative: A Pilot Grant Program For Improved Outreach & Accrual
In spring 2021, we kicked off this NCORP-focused initiative with a 2-hour virtual symposium for information gathering and shared learning, serving as a springboard for research ideas to test promising accrual strategies across network sites.
Congratulations to Dr. Mark Fiala and his team at Washington University St. Louis for the most recently awarded project, “Using recruitment messages through electronic medical record patient portals to improve enrollment into clinical trials among people with cancer.”
The symposium featured 2 rounds of site presentations, each followed by a brief panel discussion. Participating sites included: (session 1) Hawaii Minority Underserved NCORP, Upstate Carolina NCORP, Columbia University MU NCORP, Montefiore Medical Center MU NCORP, and (session 2) New Mexico MU NCORP, Stroger Hospital of Cook County MU NCORP, Puerto Rico MU NCORP, Baptist Memorial Healthcare/Mid South MU NCORP.
Related News & Publications:
- Announcing SWOG’s Vice Chair for DEII (10/7/2022)
- A Year-1 Update from SWOG’s DEI Fellow (7/29/2022)
- A More Representative Clinical Trials Day (5/20/2022)
- A Vice Chair for DEI & Professional Integrity (11/19/2021)
- Workshop on Being More Inclusive SWOG Leaders (10/29/2021)
- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion: Permeating SWOG (5/28/2021)
- New Initiative Aims to Improve Representation in Cancer Clinical Trials (5/10/2021)
- Trials Don’t End Disparities for Poorest (3/17/2021)
- Second Crucial Conversations Panel Addresses DEI in Cancer Trials
- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion: Year of Action (1/29/2021)
- NCI Trials Enroll More Black Cancer Patients (6/22/2020)
- The SWOG Commitment to Racial Justice (6/19/2020)
- Caban-Holt Leads Recruitment and Retention (1/31/2020)
- SWOG Results Recast Rural-Urban Disparities (8/24/2018)
- Access to Care May Reduce Cancer Disparities (8/17/2018)