Fourteen years ago I presented a report to the ASTRO Board of Directors from the Working Group tasked with developing a plan to launch the research and education foundation designed to raise the profile of radiation oncology and prepare the specialty for the future that would eventually become the Radiation Oncology Institute (ROI). At the time, the ASTRO Board and many in the radiation oncology community saw an urgent need to document the value, safety, efficacy, and cost effectiveness of radiation therapy, a challenge that remains important today. ASTRO and many generous individuals and companies decided to invest in the ROI, allowing it to grow from concept to creation and become a flourishing research foundation that is yielding results.
The update from Todd McNutt, PhD, in this issue of The Visionary is a great example of how ROI supporters have helped researchers develop practical solutions that improve the quality and cost effectiveness of radiotherapy. Dr. McNutt is a leader of the Oncospace research program and is pursuing commercialization through the launch of a startup company that has received Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Earlier this year, ROI researcher Daniel Golden, MD, MHPE, released three new clinical discussion guides in the Communicating the External Beam Radiotherapy Experience (CEBRE) series to help patients better understand what to expect during treatment of breast, lung, and prostate cancer. The CEBRE guides are written at a sixth-grade reading level and use graphic narrative to explain the external beam radiotherapy process. This customizable resource is free to download for all clinics on the CEBRE website thanks to the generosity of ROI donors.
Developing the next generation of leaders in radiation oncology research is critical to advancing the field, and a number of investigators have translated the success of their ROI research into larger grants. One recent example is Yvonne Mowery, MD, PhD, who received a 2020 Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award and a K08 Clinical Investigator Award from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to expand her work on head and neck cancer.
As I prepare to step down from the ROI Board of Trustees, I am proud to share these examples of how the ROI is generating a “return on investment” as promised 14 years ago. I am so grateful for all the wonderful volunteers with whom I’ve worked over the years and the generous donors without whom none of this would have been possible. There are too many to name them all in this brief letter, but I need to mention Dr. Colleen Lawton, now Vice-President, and Dr. Deborah Kuban, now President, who have spent countless hours to advance our mission. I will continue to be engaged with the ROI and am eager to see new outcomes from the research supported. As with all investments, contributions must continue to be made both in terms of time and money if we want to see additional growth. I invite you to make your year-end gift to the ROI today. Together we are creating a better future for radiation oncology through the ROI.
Ted Lawrence, MD, PhD, FASTRO
Immediate Past President and Treasurer