2021 was a year of research slowdown, of challenges for patients and for research staff alike in implementing the trials that define us. The decline in usual medical services resulted in substantial decreases in accrual to our screening trials especially. The one exception to this, TMIST, has accomplished no small feat in continuing to accrue steadily. As we write, though, the impact of the omicron variant seems to be abating (not soon enough for some, unfortunately), and we look forward to moving on with a sense of relief. Even some of our political divides might be bridged through agreed priorities—as in the importance of keeping children in school for all aspects of their well-being.
Why is such progress important? Because shared consensus can enable the continuation of important cancer research, both therapeutic and screening. Everyone, no matter the political stripe, wants a return to normalcy. It seems within our reach. When now, or soon, we revert to our previous authentic selves, we can re-engage with the purpose of our Group, to develop and complete important clinical trials that will improve the outcomes for cancer patients (or those with a high cancer risk).
At a recent ASCO symposium, the threads of that purpose were everywhere to be seen. The importance of face-to-face over virtual discussion was on everyone’s (mask-covered) lips. There was a sense that nuance of interpretation and depth of engagement were better in person. Especially there is strong determination among our early-career members to move projects forward. We look forward to a productive 2022.
In this issue, I draw your attention in particular to the activities of Mary Lou Smith, the Research Advocacy Network, which she leads. Again, the activities of this group are leading the way in identifying barriers, in this case to long-term control of breast cancer. The data show the value of focus groups and surveys to expose concerns, knowledge gaps, and patients’ wishes—without which we fly blind. The results of this work provide a guide to reaching and informing women at risk of late relapse (around which standards can then be built). This principle is not restricted to breast cancer: many of our committees might consider such approaches to guide how we approach optimal care of cancer survivors.
Read the January 2022 issue here.