60 Never Looked So Good! Over 800 SWOG members, industry professionals, corporate representatives, and cancer research advocates gathered for the fall 2016 group meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago Sept. 14-17. Throughout four days, 30 disease, research, and administrative committees met to review progress, identify needs, and plan future research directions.
“Over the course of our 60-year history, SWOG helped gain FDA approval for 14 new cancer drugs and changed the standard of care in oncology well over 100 times. This work, formally assessed by our own statisticians, has extended the lives of thousands of people by thousands of years. Our theme for this meeting and celebration is: Let’s Make More Time.”
– Charles D. Blanke, MD, Chair, SWOG
- NCORP Research Base Clinical Trials Workshop
Community sites are fueling much of the growth in SWOG membership and in enrollment to its cancer clinical trials, and cancer prevention and cancer care research is on the upswing. To address this growth, a Hope-sponsored trials training course for studies in cancer prevention, control, screening, surveillance and cancer care delivery research, was again held for 122 participants.
- The Hope Foundation Board Meeting
Hope Board of Directors met to conduct regular quarterly business, including an important budgeting session which laid the groundwork for 2017 programs and projects.
- Setup of 60th Anniversary Exhibit Space
After packing up the moving van on Tuesday, Hope staffers arrived in Chicago ready to assemble the interactive exhibit for SWOG’s 60th anniversary that highlighted the group’s history and impact. Members visited the Hong Kong and Toronto rooms to see member quotes, read group history, and listen to audio recordings of member conversations on topics like diversity in trials and cancer survivorship. Exhibit-goers also viewed digital timelines of SWOG milestones and major trials. Members snapped selfies in front of a Chicago skyline, and posted ideas, praise, and thanks to a SWOG “wish wall” – notes that were shared via Twitter throughout the meeting.
View an online version of the 60th anniversary commemorative book The SWOG Story.
- Jeri and Noboru Oishi Symposium
This recurring special symposium included updates from the SWOG Statistical Center, addressed implementation and use of CIRB, and featured a presentation from patient advocate Cheryl Jernigan. In addition, Dr. Fred Hirsch from the University of Colorado spoke on the Lung-MAP clinical trial, and Dr. Harry Erba of the University of Alabama at Birmingham gave a talk entitled, “AML, the Older Adult and Clinical Trials.”
- Plenary I – Translational Medicine
The translational medicine plenary got great reviews for relevance and clarity. Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan from University of Michigan discussed integrative sequencing in precision oncology, and Carol Weil from the National Cancer Institute discussed ethical dilemmas in genomic medicine. Dr. Ed Liu, president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory, and Dr. David Tuveson, deputy director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Cancer Center, spoke about how their Integrated Translational Science Center (ITSC) partnership with SWOG has led to important research and training opportunities for young investigators.
- Lung-MAP Site Coordinators Committee
SWOG’s major precision medicine trial, Lung-MAP, has a brand-new army of advocates. The Lung-MAP Site Coordinators Committee met for the first time in Chicago. The group is made up of 12 clinical research professionals from across the U.S. and Canada, and will advise the study chairs and the accrual enhancement committee on enrollment strategies, patient and promotional materials, changes to study procedures, as well as data collection and staff training materials. Kudos to this new group, and the entire SWOG crew supporting Lung-MAP, which just registered its 1,000th patient!
- Latin American Symposium
SWOG’s Latin American Initiative (SLAI) again hosted a gathering of international collaborators. Members reviewed the outcomes of recent biostatistics and clinical trials training courses held in Mexico and Peru in 2016, and looked ahead to planning the next course, slated to occur in Colombia in 2017. Membership expansion and new research directions were also discussed.
- Plenary II – General Plenary
This year, our keynote session stole the show. Group Chair Dr. Charles Blanke walked through a list of group innovations, and then announced that SWOG has saved more than 2 million years of human life through its trials, according to a rigorous review of 23 major Phase III studies conducted by SWOG statistician Dr. Joe Unger. The National Cancer Institute’s Andrea Denicoff gave an update on the NCI’s informed consent template and Drs. Jeff Abrams and Sheila Prindiville took the stage for a town hall on the National Clinical Trials Network, which was formed in March 2014 when the cooperative group system was reorganized. Then, Dr. Patricia Ganz from UCLA delivered the first general plenary speech as the Dr. Harry E. Hynes Speaker, providing a robust look at cancer survivorship past and future. But the highlight of the afternoon was Craig Blanford, a construction crane salesman from Texas and a patient of Dr. Ian Thompson at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Blanford was diagnosed six years ago with Stage 3 bladder cancer, and Dr. Thompson – and an immunotherapy pioneered by SWOG – saved his bladder and perhaps his life. Blanford described how the treatment has allowed him to watch his three kids grow, and called SWOG investigators “heroes” for their work. Members in the room, many in tears, rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. The event concluded with the debut of a powerful video highlighting SWOG’s ability to make more time for people with cancer.
- StoryCorps Recordings
Eager to add to a budding collection of audio stories from members, Hope staff arranged for a Friday visit from StoryCorps, the national oral history project. Throughout the day, five member pairs met to record their personal experiences as cancer patients, doctors, researchers and advocates. Blanford and Thompson were the first pair to record a conversation. Later, Dr. Don Dizon and advocate AnneMarie Ciccarella rounded out the recordings with a conversation celebrating four years of friendship found and nurtured on social media. Described as intimate and inspiring by participants and staff alike, these conversations will soon be made available via this website as well as on SWOG’s new website, scheduled to launch in late 2017, and will be logged in the Library of Congress.
- S1602 Kickoff
Friday evening brought a colorful kickoff for S1602, “A Phase III Randomized Trial to Evaluate the Influence of BCG Strain Differences and T Cell Priming with Intradermal BCG Before Intravesical Therapy for BCG Naïve High-Grade Non-Muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer,” led by Dr. Robert Svatek from UTHSCSA. The event featured a traditional Japanese sake ceremony, thanks to pharmaceutical partner JBL Pharmaceuticals. Everyone present was offered a taste!
- 60th Anniversary Reception
A big, warm gathering of friends, co-workers, and long-time collegial collaborators took place at the Friday reception. SWOG Chair Dr. Charles Blanke shared a welcome toast that gave a special nod to SWOG members with 30 or more years of service. Next Dr. Julie Gralow of the University of Washington and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance took the stage to share news of the recent passing of long-time SWOG member Dr. Robert Livingston. Livingston, a former chair of the breast and lung committees, is credited with nurturing many members in their research careers. In his honor, Gralow announced that a memorial fund will be held and directed at Hope. Finally, former Hope board member Dr. John Macdonald shared a few inspiring words – and prompted hearty laughter – as he recounted some favorite SWOG moments. It was a night to remember.
- Board of Governors
SWOG’s digital engagement committee chair, Dr. Don Dizon of Massachusetts General Hospital, delivered a report from the committee one year after it was formed by the Board of Governors, and laid out its vision for the use of digital tools to improve SWOG trials. The session also included important discussion of SWOG administration, leadership and strategy.
- Thanks for a Memorable Meeting
In sentiment and size, this group meeting was special. Thanks to all of our members who traveled to Chicago to celebrate with us – and make more history.
To see additional photos and learn more about what was shared throughout the meeting, check out this Storify which pulls together Twitter highlights featuring the meeting’s hashtags #SWOGonc and #SWOGturns60.
And take a look at these vintage buttons from SWOG’s past! Lots of history – and humor – here.