As everyone is aware, the COVID trajectory has changed again, and not for the better. Further, the bulk of the current risk is playing out in vaccine-resistant states and communities, among them Florida, our destination for the ECOG-ACRIN Fall 2021 Group Meeting. The scenario is quite different from late spring, when our survey indicated enthusiasm for a face-to-face meeting finally. Unfortunately, we will have to wait a little longer. We have again asked a representative sample of our membership and staff regarding their comfort level for attending the Fort Lauderdale meeting, and the consensus is that now is not the time.
We will therefore revert to a virtual meeting, mostly along the lines of the structure we had in the spring. As then, we will schedule the purely administrative meetings to occur outside the days of the discussions that inform the research agenda. The event dates will remain the same, October 20 – 22, and the meeting will be open to staff from ECOG-ACRIN institutions, ECOG-ACRIN advocates, NCI/NIH employees, and invited guests. We will try to ensure an efficient and interactive program for each committee, and will maintain the trials’ momentum. We will have a General Session to highlight the most important Group activities. The Young Investigator Symposium, which typically takes place each fall meeting, will occur as a virtual event. The Robert L. Comis Translational Science Symposium, however, will be postponed until we are able to meet in person. Please let us know what additional priorities you think could be addressed, and how. Lots more detail to come between now and the meeting, but we want to let you know now, so that travel plans can be amended.
In today’s newsletter, we highlight trials in myeloma and head and neck cancers, in addition to a new prevention trial, with the goal of applying a key active ingredient of green tea to decrease prostate cancer risk. The study will be conducted in a population of patients diagnosed with early-stage and indolent cancer that is being observed only. Catechins, a family of bioactive molecules found in numerous plant species, are available as constituents of an extract of green tea for pharmacological purposes, and are bioavailable from this preparation. Drs. Kumar, Bergan, and Kirkwood have been instrumental in getting this study through numerous obstacles to activation, and we are delighted to see renewed prevention activity. Several additional prevention interventions are planned, and though disrupted by the pandemic, a scientific retreat on this topic will be held before the end of the year.
Finally, to return to the issue of the pandemic for a moment, we would be remiss not to at least comment on the current surge, and to urge with the greatest respect that those among our membership who are not yet vaccinated should think very seriously about doing so, for yourselves, your families, and your communities. If your reason for not getting vaccinated lies in concerns about safety, there is surely reassurance in numbers—worldwide close to half a billion vaccinated—and despite disinformation efforts (fertility, SIDS, numerous others) to try to mislead people, it is rare to have side effects of any consequence. We wish our cancer therapies were so safe.
If your concerns are that the FDA has not yet given full approval, this is no longer the case for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which received full approval today. This is also expected soon for other vaccines, and should buttress the case for the safety. If the reason for not getting vaccinated is that you have already had documented COVID—the latest figures suggest that affords about 85% protection, while the vaccine offers more than 95%. There is reason to add the protection of the vaccine. And if the concern is that the vaccine is ineffective, all one needs to do is to look at the distribution of severe disease in the past month—primarily in regions with low vaccine rates. It is clear that the impact of the Delta variant is dramatically reduced in communities with high vaccine rates. We hope that, like us, you will see this as a civic duty for the protection of all.
Read the August 2021 issue here.