Edith Mitchell, MD headshot
Remembering Edith Peterson Mitchell, MD
February 9, 2024
Edith Mitchell, MD headshot
Remembering Edith Peterson Mitchell, MD
February 9, 2024

From the Co-Chairs, February 2024

Dr. O'Dwyer and Dr. Schnall

By Peter J. O’Dwyer, MD (left)
and Mitchell D. Schnall, MD, PhD

By now this audience is well aware of the passing of Dr. Edith Mitchell, professor of medicine at Thomas Jefferson University, ECOG-ACRIN researcher in GI and breast cancers—and in genomics through NCI-MATCH—and most importantly, champion of equity at every level, in every institution, and in every clinical trial. We provide a link here to an obituary that reflects her many attributes that we in ECOG-ACRIN, and in the National Medical Association, will recognize and miss. The discussions in the Health Equity Committee meeting of February 2, 2024, led by Dr. Melissa Simon, were focused on remembering Dr. Mitchell’s profound impact that resonated through the culture of our Group. What stood out from the numerous accolades and appreciations was the very personal nature of her impact, her acceptance of all without regard to stature, her insistence that all voices be heard, and her kindly disposition that belied her importance in our field. A memorial will take place in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Tuesday, February 27 at 9:30 am. The event will also be live-streamed for those who cannot attend in person. View additional details. 

Since our last issue, we recognize the appointment of Dr. W. Kimryn Rathmell as the 17th Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), succeeding Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, who left in November to become director of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Rathmell comes to the NCI from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, where she served as the Hugh Jackson Morgan Chair in Medicine, chair of the Department of Medicine, and physician-in-chief. She is a renowned kidney cancer expert and influential leader in cancer research and patient care. We welcome such a highly qualified scientist, administrator, and clinician to a role in which all three attributes are essential. As such, she represents an optimal successor to Dr. Bertagnolli, who in her limited time in office was able to introduce novel thinking in multiple areas of NCI functions and interactions, many of which have the potential to greatly expand what we in cooperative group research will be able to accomplish. We look forward to working closely with Dr. Rathmell toward these goals.

Late last year, we also learned that the Journal of Clinical Oncology selected Dr. Michael Atkins and colleagues’ paper on the EA6134/DREAMseq trial as the JCO 2023 Paper of the Year. This designation indicates that the article had the greatest impact and reach among all the journal's papers in 2023. DREAMseq identified an optimal treatment sequence for combination therapy in patients with advanced melanoma with a BRAF V600 tumor gene mutation: immunotherapy (nivolumab and ipilimumab), followed by targeted therapy (dabrafenib and trametinib) if there was disease progression, resulted in a 20% absolute improvement in 2-year overall survival compared with the reverse sequence. A practice-changing trial, it stands out as the kind of study that our industry partners would have no interest in performing. Further, thanks to a substantial correlative endpoint focus, more discoveries will emerge from DREAMseq, as Dr. Atkins and colleagues are now validating biomarker findings from biopsy tissue and blood samples contributed by trial participants.

"The goals of these biomarker studies are to identify at a molecular level the subset of patients who benefit from starting with targeted therapy and those who don’t appear to benefit from either treatment approach and thus would be candidates for alternative therapies,” said Dr. Atkins.

Read the February 2024 issue here.

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