Robert L. Comis, MD, cochair of the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group and professor of medicine at Drexel University in Philadelphia, died May 10, 2017, at the age of 71. Comis, an AACR member since 1983, was known for his work in clinical research and as a champion of patient access to cancer clinical trials.
Comis became head of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) in 1995 and proceeded to lead the group’s efforts to design and conduct clinical trials. Under his leadership, ECOG merged with the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) in 2012 to form the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group, which integrated therapeutic and medical imaging research with the latest bioinformatics technologies into a single organization.
Comis was most recently working with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to design and implement the NCI-MATCH trial, which is the largest, most scientifically rigorous precision medicine cancer trial to date, thus cementing the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group’s capabilities in precision medicine.
Before joining ECOG, Comis held various clinical practice and research leadership positions, including as medical director and chair of medical oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, which received its first NCI designation as a comprehensive cancer center under his leadership. He then brought his eagerness to strengthen cancer research programs to what is now known as the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, which received its first NCI designation as a comprehensive cancer center within the first six months of Comis’s tenure as clinical director.
Born on July 16, 1945, in Albany, New York, Comis received his bachelor’s degree from Fordham University in New York City and his medical degree from the State University of New York Health Science Center School of Medicine in Syracuse, where he also completed his internship and residency.
Comis was an active member of the AACR, having served on various committees including the Annual Meeting Program Committee, as an associate editor of Cancer Research (1993-1998), and on the editorial board of Clinical Cancer Research (2001-2006). In addition, he served on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, authored more than 140 scientific articles, and contributed to more than 20 scientific and medical textbooks.
Additionally, he was a member of myriad other organizations, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Radium Society, C-Change, and the National Coalition for Cancer Research. He frequently appeared as a subject matter expert to the United States Congress, the President’s Cancer Panel, and the National Cancer Advisory Board, among other groups and organizations worldwide.