CRTC Through the Eyes of An Attendee

by Agne Taraseviciute, MD, PhD
Acting Instructor – Pediatric Hematology/Oncology
Team Abby Gives St. Baldrick’s Fellow
Seattle Children's Hospital/Seattle Children's Research Institute
Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research

 

Last month, I attended the ASBMT Clinical Research Training Course (CRTC) in Charlotte, NC, a five-day course specifically designed for fellows and junior faculty that focuses on teaching the skills required for designing impactful clinical trials in the field of BMT. The course was designed to address a significant gap in clinical fellowship training: as clinicians, we are taught how to enroll and treat patients on clinical trials, however, teaching about the specific steps required to develop and implement clinical trials is often lacking.

I have attended numerous educational meetings as a fellow, including ASCO and ASH, however, I found them to be overwhelming due to their massive size, which made it difficult to get to know and network with faculty. In contrast to these large conferences, the ASBMT CRTC brought back fond memories of summer graduate school days spent at Gordon Research Conferences, where faculty and students interacted from sunrise until sunset during research talks, poster sessions, meals and games. Discussions about science, life and everything in between naturally followed.

The ASBMT CRTC created the same sense of close community between 10 faculty and 12 scholars: the faculty were actively present from morning until evening, they were engaged, keen to get to know the scholars and eager to provide valuable advice for improving our clinical trials and advancing our careers. The faculty’s presentations on statistics as well as various clinical aspects in the field of HCT were excellent and I learned so much every day! It was also enjoyable to hear a variety of perspectives on different HCT topics, from scholars and faculty alike, and it was wonderful to have a setting in which discussion was always encouraged.

One of my favorite parts of the ASBMT CRTC was the faculty “hot seat”, in which faculty picked a question posed to them by the scholars and sat in the “hot seat” chair and answered the question very openly about topics ranging from work-life balance to career choices to different roads to success. Another aspect of the course that made a big impression was the overwhelmingly collaborative environment in faculty/scholar small groups as well as among all of the scholars, with one overarching goal in mind - to improve our clinical trials.

Lest you think that the course was a serious and stuffy affair without a chance to decompress, I have to admit that the course was also a lot of fun - there was always just the right amount of humor infused throughout presentations during the day, there were jokes, haikus on BMT conditioning regimens (which will now forever be engrained in our minds: “BUCY, CYTBI, either one can make you die, FluBU you could try too, a little RIC, when old or sick”), bowling, and even a ping pong tournament!

At the end of the course I felt as though we had just spent 5 days in a BMT camp (in a somewhat more hospitable, non-camp setting), where we learned about clinical trial design, statistics, various BMT topics and got to know each other while sitting around a camp fire singing camp songs (…almost, but not in the 90F weather in NC).

Going into this course, I did not know what to expect, I knew that I really enjoyed clinical trial development and wanted to learn more and I was curious about what the other scholars and faculty were like. Once I left, I felt that I had learned a ton, I was eager to get my clinical trial off the ground at my institution and I had made life-long BMT friends whom I am excited to collaborate with in the future and to see at ASBMT conferences. This was definitely the best course I have attended and the knowledge and connections gained from it will undoubtedly help me succeed in future academic BMT endeavors.

The inaugural H. Jean Khoury Award for Scholarly Excellence
was presented to Dr. Taraseviciute (center) at the CRTC meeting.

My two take-away’s from the course: 1) get to know your local statistician - identify and involve them early to work with you on your clinical trial and invest a significant amount of time to discuss the best study design/end points/timeline (and from the course I now know 2 amazing statisticians who are willing to help!). 2) not everyone takes a straight path to success and sometimes, even when taking a winding path, you can still get there (as we learned from all of the successful faculty leading the course).

I think that the ASBMT CRTC is an incredible training opportunity for everyone who is interested in conducting clinical trials in BMT and beyond – it teaches you the basics for clinical trial design, including statistics, and the knowledgeable and experienced faculty provide constructive criticism on ways to improve your specific clinical trial. It was an incredibly valuable experience for me as junior faculty and will serve as a great spring board for launching my clinical trials.

SEE ALSO:  

  • To read "ASBMT Clinical Research Training Course Recap," click here.  
  • To read "CRTC Through the Eyes of an Instructor" click here.

 

Read the entire August 2017 ASBMT eNews here.