Here we are, still in the time of COVID-19, but with glimmers of vaccine promise on the horizon. We held a virtual Fall Group Meeting, timed to be on the days in which we expected to have the clamor of our active meeting reverberating — interestingly, committees found ways to expand facetime beyond allotted hours to give ideas and ongoing studies the attention and time they needed. All who have enjoyed multiple, protracted, arse-cramping Zoom calls will share the sense that face-to-face meetings will not be made redundant in our virtual environment, though they may change in useful ways.
What has been clear from our recent meeting, however, is that virtual access can greatly expand the ability of interested participants to attend. Nowhere has this been more evident than in community oncologist participation. Under the direction of community leaders including Matthias Weiss, MD, PhD, Mike Thompson, MD, PhD, Tom Saphner, MD and others, participation of community oncologists in various sessions—but especially the General Session—was greater than we can ever recall. Forty percent of the attendees at this meeting were there for the first time — a remarkable proportion. Twice as many attendees joined the Community Cancer Committee and the Clinical Research Associates Committee sessions as in a regular meeting. In response, we are developing plans to ensure virtual access to key open meetings even when we are able to get back together. Our challenge will be to close the loop: to ensure that the voices of those participating remotely will be heard in real time. We are working on platforms to test in this regard, and should be ready to roll one out in early 2021.
We take this opportunity also to celebrate the appointment of Al B. Benson, MD as Group Vice Chair. A former chair of the GI Cancer Committee, and continuing as Deputy Chair for Policy and Implementation, Al brings unique skills to a role that will guide ECOG-ACRIN’s efforts to expand its activities in community-specific trials, in the assessment of the impact of our research through comparative effectiveness and health care delivery research, and through studies involving real-world data. His experience as past president of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and participation in the Association of Community Cancer Centers will facilitate EA participation in trials and data collection beyond our usual phase I to phase III scope, to address issues such as drug interactions, risk factors for toxicity, and efficacy in subpopulations, all of which may contribute to greater personalization of cancer treatment. Such research can complement in practical ways our current activities, such as our therapeutic focus in genomics or in social determinants of health, and bring together a more detailed picture of optimal cancer management. More about these new areas in the coming months.
The current issue of the newsletter details a flurry of trials that have opened or re-opened in the past month. We continue to have impactful, potentially practice-changing trials that come to fruition thanks to the work of many individuals in the committees and in EA Operations; the current activity is a tribute to the efforts of all. We also recognize some prominent recipients of prestigious awards in various disciplines — we celebrate your accomplishments, and our privilege in being a part of your work.
Read the November/December 2020 issue here.