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ASCO Remembers Robert L. Comis, MD, FASCO

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ASCO and the oncology community are deeply saddened by the loss of Robert L. Comis, MD, FASCO, who passed away on May 10, 2017, at the age of 71. Dr. Comis was a powerful voice in support of clinical trials, cooperative group research, and patient advocacy throughout his career.

“Bob helped create the cooperative group enterprise that brought so many advances to patients. He was remarkably talented as a physician, scientist, mentor, and leader, and as a musician, too. Our community is what it is thanks to his selfless dedication, and we will miss him dearly,” said ASCO Chief Executive Officer Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP, FASCO.

A New Type of Research Organization

A leader in international clinical trials research since 1977, Dr. Comis was intrinsically involved in the history and evolution of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cooperative Groups program. An early member of the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB), in 1995 he took the position of group chair of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG).

In 2012, ECOG merged with the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) to form the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group, where Dr. Comis served as group co-chair together with Mitchell D. Schnall, MD, PhD. Dr. Comis envisioned the merger as an opportunity to create a new type of research organization with complementary therapeutic and medical imaging strengths. ECOG-ACRIN designs and conducts biomarker-driven cancer research in adults, with the goal of achieving earlier cancer detection, more successful therapeutic interventions, higher rates of prevention, and better patient outcomes. Most recently, Dr. Comis cemented the group’s capabilities in precision medicine, as ECOG-ACRIN investigators designed and are now conducting the NCI-MATCH (EAY131) trial.

Tributes by Colleagues

“Bob and I, like so many other clinical investigators of our day, grew up in the cooperative groups,” said ASCO Chief Medical Officer Richard L. Schilsky, MD, FACP, FASCO, who became the group chair of CALGB in 1995. “We were very much brothers in arms, friends, and confidants. I will greatly miss Bob’s passion for clinical research that always placed the interests of patients first, his balanced judgment, and his warm good humor. The cancer community has lost a great leader and staunch champion of publicly funded clinical trials.”

2016 to 2017 ASCO President Daniel F. Hayes, MD, FACP, FASCO, concurred. “Bob Comis was a giant, and I cannot imagine ECOG-ACRIN, or ASCO, or our field without his gentle but guiding presence,” he said.

A funeral mass will be held at 10:30 am on Monday, May 15, 2017, at St. David's Church, 316 Easton Road, Willow Grove, PA 19090. More information is available here.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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