In Memoriam: Robert L. Comis, MD


In Memoriam: Robert L. Comis, MD
Clinical Trial Leader and Patient Champion Passes Away at 71

Robert L. Comis, MD, passed away suddenly in his home on May 10, 2017. He was 71. A leader in international clinical trials research since 1977, Dr. Comis was known as a champion of patient access to cancer clinical trials, spearheading initiatives to raise awareness about the pivotal role of cancer clinical trials in cancer prevention, detection and treatment.

Most recently, Dr. Comis was Group Co-Chair of the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group, a multidisciplinary, membership-based scientific organization that designs and conducts biomarker-driven cancer research involving adults who have or are at risk of developing cancer. There he was responsible for its entire scientific program, overseeing the design and conduct of biomarker-driven research involving adults who have or are at risk of developing cancer. He was also Professor of Medicine and Director of the Drexel University Clinical Trials Research Center, Philadelphia, Penn.

Throughout his career as a practicing medical oncologist and clinical researcher, Dr. Comis served on the boards of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Radium Society, C-Change and the National Coalition for Cancer Research; the editorial boards of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Cancer Research and Clinical Cancer Research; authored more than 150 scientific articles and contributed to more than 20 scientific and medical textbooks on cancer.

Dr. Comis also served in various clinical practice and research leadership positions at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Temple University School of Medicine, Fox Chase Cancer Center and Allegheny Cancer Center. 

His leadership in clinical research continued through his membership on the National Cancer Institute’s National Clinical Trials Leadership Management Committee and frequent appearances as an expert to the U.S. Congress, Institute of Medicine, President’s Cancer Panel, National Cancer Advisory Board and many others. 

Finally, Dr. Comis played a fundamental role in the history of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), having mentored many IASLC members throughout the course of his career. 

Noting his contributions to cancer clinical trials, Paul A. Bunn, Jr, MD, stated, "Bob Comis had a huge impact on lung cancer [...] and on cancer clinical trials. After his training, Dr. Comis worked at the NCI CTEP. This group of distinguished investigators transformed the way that early-stage cancer clinical trials are conducted."

A graduate of Fordham University, Dr. Comis received his medical degree from the State University of New York Health Science Center School of Medicine in Syracuse, N.Y., where he also completed his medical internship and residency. He served as a Staff Associate at the National Cancer Institute and completed a medical oncology fellowship at the Sidney Farber (now Dana-Farber) Cancer Center.

"I owe Bob a lifelong debt of gratitude.  Without him, I’d never have had the career I’ve had or the opportunities I’ve been offered," said Corey J. Langer, MD, in response to Dr. Comis's passing. "At each step of my professional journey, he was tirelessly supportive every time I tried to 'stretch the envelope' and a reality check when I went a bit too far. I am deeply saddened. The world is an emptier place without Bob."  

"Dr. Comis was a compassionate colleague, a dedicated husband, father and gradfather with loving friends and family who will miss him dearly but remember him fondly," said Dr. Bunn in reflection. "He had a delightful joy de vive, and in addition to his professional leadership, he was always the life of the party with his piano playing and gregarious wit."

May 16, 2017