Becoming Involved in Oncology Cooperative Groups With Deborah Watkins Bruner, RN, PhD, FAAN

At the recent Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Congress in Anaheim, California, Deborah Watkins Bruner, Senior Vice President of Research at Emory University, gave a presentation to shed light on the value of oncology cooperative groups. In this interview, Dr. Watkins Bruner provides additional insight into the opportunities surrounding cooperative groups and shares resources for members of the nursing community who are interested in becoming involved.

Oncology Data Advisor: Thank you for joining us, Dr. Bruner.

Deborah Watkins Bruner, RN, PhD, FAAN: Sure. I’m Deborah Watkins Bruner. I’m Senior Vice President of Research at Emory University. I am one of the multi–principal investigators (PIs) for the NRG Oncology Group’s National Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), which is one of the national clinical trials cooperative groups.

Oncology Data Advisor: Would you like to give us an overview of your presentation on demystifying cooperative groups?

Dr. Bruner: I was pleased to speak with Dr. Mary Cooley, who is also part of the NRG Oncology NCORP, here at ONS Congress today to explain and discuss the opportunities for nurse scientists within the national clinical trials cooperative groups, and there are many. We talked about some of the priorities that our NRG Oncology NCORP has, and they include things that nurse scientists are very passionate about, including cancer prevention, cancer control, cancer care delivery, and symptom management, which is high on nurse scientists’ lists.

There are multiple ways to get involved. You can look at the website for opportunities. There are multiple committees. Nursing is highly represented on many of the cancer control, cancer prevention, cancer care delivery, health disparities research, and patient-reported outcomes committees. We’re always looking for nurse scientists with expertise in those areas.

Oncology Data Advisor: That’s great to know. What is the key take-home message that you would like nurses to remember from your presentation here?

Dr. Bruner: I would like nurses to remember that the clinical trials groups are multidisciplinary. It is not just physician scientists; there are many PhDs. The work is very collaborative, and again, there is research done in the fields of cancer control and prevention, gerontology, cardio-oncology, and many other areas. We’re doing a lot of work with symptom science and biomarkers and genomic markers of symptoms; these are all valuable opportunities.

In addition to that, I would like nurse scientists to know that we have a monumental database, consisting of hundreds of thousands of patients, that my own mentee has completed for her dissertation. The database can be used for dissertations, for publications, and for pilot data. It’s really a wealth of a resource. Much of it is not just the metadata from the clinical trials, and it’s across multiple disease sites, but we also have a large biobank. For instance, the historic breast cancer prevention trials, the raloxifene and tamoxifen trials, have hundreds of thousands of data points. There’s a huge biorepository.

Oncology Data Advisor: That sounds like a great resource to have. Thanks so much for explaining all of this.

About Dr. Watkins Bruner

Deborah Watkins Bruner, RN, PhD, FAAN, is the Senior Vice President of Research at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She is also Professor and Robert W. Woodruff Chair in Nursing and Professor of Radiation Oncology at Winship Cancer Institute. Dr. Watkins Bruner serves as a multi-PI for the NRG Oncology Group NCORP and is an internationally renowned researcher in the fields of patient-reported outcomes, symptom management, and radiotherapy modality effectiveness.

For More Information

Watkins Bruner D & Cooley M (2022). Demystifying cooperative groups. Presented at: 47th Annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress.

NRG Oncology (2022). NCORP resources. Available at:

Transcript edited for clarity. Any views expressed above the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Oncology Data Advisor. 

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