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From the Co-Chairs, May 2021

Dr. O'Dwyer and Dr. Schnall

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

Our Virtual Spring 2021 Group Meeting surpassed all expectations, and attendance exceeded 2000 registrants for the first time. This was a 25% increase over previous highs, and it opened the discussions to participation from both oncologists and clinical research associates. We believe strongly that this democratizing of participation serves all of us as a community, and we are committed to continuing it for those unable to travel. A hybrid model of face-to-face and virtual engagement is the plan for the future, though it must be admitted that the prospect is not without its challenges.

The success of the virtual meeting was the result of an organizational tour de force on the part of a team consisting of Jan Haughey, Christina Chink, Robert Brown, Katie Heller, and others, and resulted in an elaborately choreographed set of meetings. Since the times allocated to each committee were constrained by usual virtual meeting limitations (people can’t be asked to sit before a screen for hours on end!), presentations were recorded. Discussions did occur after each, and by and large these were productive. They probably did not achieve the level of engagement and spontaneity of our usual meetings, but they certainly served the purpose of maintaining the momentum and relevance of our cancer research. We are grateful to all who made it possible.

We are now discussing how best to present a hybrid Group Meeting in the fall – there actually are more options for this since we are not tied to time of geographic location. On the other hand, the very early, pre-publication presentations of trials that we preview with the ECOG-ACRIN membership run the risk of contravening the regulations of our learned societies (ASCO, AACR, ASH) regarding presentations in advance of their national meetings. We are working on sorting out these aspects, and will welcome your thoughts on what will serve the community best.

The pandemic had an impact on accrual to our precision medicine trials for several months, and especially this was seen in screening trial accrual. At this point, both screening and genomic trials are back to full activity, and the pandemic did not slow planning for studies. The TMIST trial, which is now undergoing revisions that will accelerate its completion, is at its highest levels of recruitment, with about 2300 subjects per month in 2021. The trial was reviewed by the NCI’s Clinical Trials and Translational Research Advisory Committee (CTAC), and the value, science, and structure of the trial validated and supported.

The NCI-MATCH trial has 11 open arms, one of which (directed to patients with tumors harboring a DNA mismatch repair deficiency, or MSI) is newly opened. We draw your attention especially to the reopened arm H, directed to patients with BRAF V600 mutations, the favorable results of which are already being considered for a tumor-agnostic registration by the FDA. What a boon to patients that would be, and what a demonstration of the value of precision medicine and genomic testing. We are at the earliest stages of developing therapeutic approaches in this field. The MATCH trial by and large tested single agents, and showed that signals of efficacy could be identified. From this, in the next several months, we can anticipate the opening of NCI-ComboMATCH, a study of combination therapies in these patients. In addition, this week saw the approval by the EA Executive Review Committee of the first ECOG-ACRIN arm of MyeloMATCH, a basket trial directed to adult and pediatric leukemias, managed collaboratively by all the NCTN Groups and the NCI. More studies are in development and will be the topic of future discussions in this space.

Read the May 2021 issue here.

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