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UC Davis lung cancer specialist Karen Kelly to take the reins of prestigious SWOG Lung Committee

Karen Kelly, associate director for clinical research at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been named chair of the Lung Committee of SWOG, one of the nation’s leading cooperative cancer research organizations.

A lung cancer specialist, Dr. Kelly will oversee the design and implementation of multidisciplinary clinical trials of new lung cancer treatments, including targeted therapies, immunotherapy and cancer biomarkers involving thousands of patients nationwide.

“I am honored to have been selected to lead the SWOG Lung Committee,” she said. “I look forward to working with the committee to continue SWOG’s transformative research to improve the lives of our patients with lung cancer.”

Dr. Kelly, a SWOG member since 1992 and currently the committee’s medical oncology lead, is taking the reins from another UC Davis faculty member, David Gandara, also of UC Davis. Dr. Gandara is the longest running leader at SWOG, having chaired the SWOG Lung Committee for 17 years before announcing in September that he will be stepping down.

“I have been privileged to serve as chair of the SWOG Lung Committee during a time when treatment options for patients with lung cancer have dramatically increased,” Dr. Gandara said. “SWOG has led this revolution in many ways, perhaps most importantly in the current Lung MAP project, which utilizes a master protocol concept to match genomic mutations in patient tumors with newly available drugs targeting those abnormalities. This is the truly personalized medicine. My best wishes to Dr. Kelly to further these advances under the SWOG umbrella.”

SWOG chair Charles D. Blanke, in an online announcement of the change in committee leadership, called Dr. Kelly “a more than able successor” to Gandara and someone with “a distinguished track record as a presenter, mentor, grant reviewer and journal editor.”

Dr. Blanke also called her a “champion of early career physicians and scientists” and a leader who will work to ensure clinical trials are activated and executed quickly, bringing new treatments into the pipeline rapidly to benefit patients sooner.

Dr. Kelly, whose new SWOG position takes effect Jan. 1, 2016, is a fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and holds the Jennifer Rene Harmon Tegley and Elizabeth Erica Harmon Endowed Chair in Cancer Clinical Research at UC Davis.

SWOG, which originated in the Southwest and was previously known as the Southwest Oncology Group, is a National Cancer Institute-supported clinical research cooperative group. It has roughly 5,000 affiliated physician researchers, as well as thousands of oncology research professionals from more than 650 institutions, mostly in the United States, but also in Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and other countries. An average of 5,000 cancer patients and healthy participants enroll each year in SWOG studies, and about 20,000 more are involved in ongoing clinical trials.

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