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U-M researcher chosen for innovative program to help young physicians entering cancer research field

Ann Arbor - University of Michigan researcher Jeffrey B. Smerage, M.D., Ph.D., is one of four talented young physicians chosen after a rigorous and competitive application process to participate in the “Young Investigators” Training Course conducted by the Southwest Oncology Group. Smerage is a clinical fellow in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

This training program helps develop the specific skills essential to design and conduct cancer clinical trials. Through the program, these promising young physician-researchers receive intensive training in statistical principles, data collection and analysis, critical decision-making, protocol development and Southwest Oncology Group procedures.

Smerage spent four days at the group’s operations office in San Antonio, Texas, and four days with the statisticians at the Southwest Oncology Group Statistical Center in Seattle, Wash. His research is focused on development of an effective method to determine an appropriate and effective treatment course for patients with metastatic breast cancer.

“My career goal is to become a translational investigator,” Smerage said. “That is, I am interested in the transfer of knowledge from the ‘bench to the bedside,’ as well as from the ‘bedside to the bench.’ I believe the Young Investigator Training Course will provide me with invaluable training in clinical protocol development in general, and will be an excellent mechanism to learn the process of protocol development within the Southwest Oncology Group. It is my hope that my current pre-clinical laboratory work will develop into testable clinical hypotheses, and that these hypotheses will eventually be incorporated into Southwest Oncology Group trials as biologic and correlative endpoints.”

As part of the training course, Smerage will design a clinical trial protocol that will be reviewed by the appropriate disease committees within the group. Once approved, it will be submitted to the National Cancer Institute for further review with the goal to conduct the new study through the Southwest Oncology Group. He will be totally responsible for the conduct, monitoring and analyses of his trial.

Recognizing the growing need for an infusion of new investigators into the ranks of cancer researchers, the Southwest Oncology Group initiated this innovative program in 1999 with support of the Hope Foundation. The training course is designed to head off a growing trend that, if not checked, could have a major impact on cancer clinical trials in the future.

“Over the years, it has become more and more apparent that cancer researchers are a dying breed. Young physicians are bypassing a career in this complex field. Younger people with new and fresh ideas are needed to perpetuate the growing legacy of successful cancer research,” says Charles A. Coltman Jr., M.D., chair of the Southwest Oncology Group.

With this class of the Young Investigators Training Course, 31 investigators will have joined the ranks of seasoned researchers. Ten protocols have been introduced and activated at institutions across the United States. Other protocols are in various stages of the development and approval process.

Contact: Nicole Fawcett

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Please note: The articles listed in the Cancer Center's News Archive are here for historical purposes. The information and links may no longer be up-to-date.