“Use our patients advocate networks in addition to the National Clinical Trials Network,” Gavin concluded. “We can help you build effective trials that patients will want to join and their oncologists will want to recommend—we can help you get the message out. Involve us as early in the development process as possible,” he said.
Schilsky asked Gavin how patients can engage their oncologists to ensure that they discuss clinical trial opportunities. Gavin responded that patient advocates advise patients to talk to their oncologists about options for a clinical trial as a possible treatment option and encourage them to “do their homework” beforehand by exploring websites that list information about trials.
Participants at the workshop also voiced concerns about a decline in the number of physicians willing to engage in clinical trials. Several speakers said that more mentoring and funding for young investigators are needed to maintain a critical mass of clinical investigators.
Comis noted several fellowship award programs that ECOG designed to attract new investigators, including the Young Investigator Awards. Eleven out of 15 recipients of this award during the past 15 years have entered senior positions in ECOG. All of these awards were supported by ECOG’s foundation, not federal funds, Comis said. He added that ECOG-ACRIN plans to develop a mentorship committee to formalize the fellowship awards. “Each committee chair is paying attention to bringing young investigators in, but I don’t think that’s enough, so we’re going to formalize that program,” he said.
Blanke added that SWOG also has funding opportunities for young investigators, as well as a course in which participants are flown to Seattle to learn from “the best of SWOG.” Participants are expected to develop a clinical trial protocol by the end of the course. “They not only get teaching, but a sense of excitement, and a large percentage of them move forward,” Blanke said. He added that SWOG is starting a formal mentorship program that will pair mid-level investigators with young investigators in each clinical trial. SWOG is also creating more leadership opportunities in the subcommittees for each trial. “That way, young investigators can engage in the governance and scientific direction of the group as well,” Blanke said.
Roach added that young investigators in the academic setting should be better rewarded for pursuing clinical research and engaging in collabora-