Robert L. Comis, MD was an innovative researcher who recognized the potential for translational science to advance cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. His interest in oncology began early in his career at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) when he was sent to Uganda to provide chemotherapy to children suffering from Burkitt’s lymphoma. After a fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, he embarked on a career focused on lung cancer and developmental therapeutics. He built centers of excellence in the research and treatment of cancer, first in Syracuse then at Fox Chase Cancer Center and Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
Some of the most important national late-stage clinical trials were conducted under his leadership as Chair of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG). He led the Group from 1995-2012, spearheading scores of scientific discoveries that changed clinical practice across multiple types of cancer.
Dr. Comis envisioned the merger that resulted in the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group in 2012. He led the effort to coalesce the new group into what it is today: a scientific community of researchers in cancer biology, immunology, therapeutics, molecular and imaging diagnostics, and comparative effectiveness and patient-reported outcomes research, as well as bioinformatics and biostatistical expertise.
A giant in the field, he was a tireless advocate for patient access to trials and a champion for underserved populations. As a mentor, he helped launch many careers by fostering scientific inquiry among early-career oncologists. Many of his trainees are the new leaders in the field, and will perpetuate his legacy.
Robert L. Comis: In Memoriam
The Oncologist 2017;22:1012–1013 by Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD and Peter J. O’Dwyer, MD