Each year, about 100 eager students make their way to Vail, Colorado. And not for the spectacular vistas and the great summer weather—although both are remarkable—but rather to learn from experts on how to develop a well-designed clinical trial. The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop, more commonly referred to as the Vail Course, provides a weeklong immersion in clinical trial design and troubleshooting. Students learn how to structure a clinical trial and write a clinical protocol, plus meet and develop lasting collaborations with other students and faculty members.
Recognizing that this workshop is an important forum to promote effective clinical trial designs of therapeutic interventions in the treatment of cancer, ASTRO supports the workshop with an educational grant. This funding from ASTRO provides for radiation oncology education, covering expenses such as tuition, travel expenses and accommodations for residents and faculty members. Radiation oncologists, including Christopher Willett, MD, FASTRO, Joel Tepper, MD, FASTRO, and Stephen Hahn, MD, FASTRO, have participated as faculty members at past workshops.
Resident radiation oncologists, like Noelle Williams, MD, have been reaping the rewards of this program for many years. Dr. Williams, who is Chief Radiation Oncology Resident at the Thomas Jefferson University, received the distinguished Daniel D. Von Hoff Innovative Protocol Award for her outstanding work during the Vail Course in 2017. This award is selected by the faculty-at-large and is awarded to the best protocol developed at the meeting. Her experience there reflects the tremendous opportunity and impact of this course:
“The Vail Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop was truly an amazing experience, and one of the most educational weeks of my entire residency. I would recommend this course to anyone with an interest in effective clinical trial design and implementation.”
According to Dr. Williams, one of the key components to the course, in addition to the in-depth materials provided, is the mentorship. “The mentorship is one of a kind, and one of the highlights of the course is the low trainee-to-faculty ratio. During the week, I was able to connect with leaders in multiple fields who have a true interest in helping attendees to perfect their protocols.”
Radiation oncologists have participated in the past, but as more combination radiation-chemotherapy or radiation-immunotherapy trials are underway, it is more critical now than ever before for radiation oncologists to actively engage in the development and execution of these trials.
What is the benefit for radiation oncologists? Dr. Williams posits that it is the networking opportunities. “The ability to network with trainees and experts across all fields, including surgical oncology, biostatistics and medical oncology, is one of the highlights of the course.”
Applications are being accepted through March 12. Visit the website for more information and to apply.