“Now more than ever, the funds we raise through the DCC can impact the lives of our friends and family members who are struggling to overcome cancer”.
- DR. STEPHEN D. NIMER, director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
100% of the funds raised by the riders in the Dolphins Cycling Challenge are used to support cancer research at the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. These funds stay right here in South Florida to improve the lives of our cancer patients and their families. Because our patients come from throughout the region, (23% from Palm Beach County, 22% from Broward County, and 45% from Miami-Dade), the impact is felt across all three counties where the ride takes place.
Dr. Stephen Nimer and his leadership team make a special effort to prioritize the use of the funds where they will have the most impact today and into the future. With this as the goal, the DCC funds are used to:
Nearly all of Sylvester’s senior leaders, and many of the physicians and scientists who receive support for their research, ride with us on Team UM Sylvester. Together, we are tackling cancer one mile at a time!
The following are but a few examples of the specific projects and programs that have been transformed by DCC funds.
A New Day for Children with Cancer in South Florida
At Sylvester, we believe that “research cures cancer.” Nowhere is that more true than at Alex’s Place, the beautiful new home for our kids with cancer. New discoveries here – and at other cancer centers around the Nation and the World – are rapidly turned into better treatment for these children. Cure rates are high – above 70% overall – and we are working to reduce the side effects of the aggressive treatment that is needed to achieve this success.
Work in Dr. Julio Barredo’s lab is defining the potential role for a new drug that blocks a key mutation pathway (the neddylation pathway) in acute lymphoblastic leukemia. They have shown that this drug is effective in killing these cancer cells, and can enhance the effectiveness of the drugs that are currently used to treat these patients. These studies are being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Ronan Swords, together, they plan to use the data obtained with DCC funds to submit a major grant to the National Cancer Institute in 2014. This is an excellent example of how we use DCC funding to help our investigators do their most creative work and also how we multiply the impact DCC funding by applying for large federal grants.
Dr. Samita Andreansky studies new immunotherapy approaches to improve cancer treatment in children. She is studying how to best deliver beneficial proteins secreted by immune cells in various cancer models to achieve cancer control. Another important aspect of her work are her studies of how of chemotherapy drugs impacts on antitumor immune responses.
The DCC is also supporting an innovative cancer vaccine program for children and adults with brain tumors, sarcoma, led by Dr. John Goldberg in pediatric oncology. This program is based on discoveries made in the laboratory of Sylvester’s Dr. Eli Gilboa and it is now part of an international collaboration. Patients from all over South Florida and (the world) are now able to be treated with this promising immunotherapy.
The pediatric Phase I Clinical Trials Program is the only program offering early phase clinical trials to children with relapsed cancer in South Florida. Led by Dr. Goldberg, the program is a leading member of Therapeutic Advances in Childhood Leukemia and Lymphoma (TACL) and the Sunshine Project, both national Phase I consortia. Through these groups, we run clinical trials that can offer experimental treatment, and hope, to nearly any child with a cancer that has returned after standard treatment.
Sylvester’s Stem Cell Transplant Programs for Children and Adults are Expanding with Outstanding Physicians, Facilities and Partners.
Research is critical to every aspect of Stem Cell Transplantation. Every patient is a part of the research that optimizes the results we achieve for these patients. Because of this, the risk of serious side effects for this life-saving therapy is decreasing steadily, at the same time that more patients are being cured.
DCC funds have helped Dr. Martin Andreansky and his team expand life-saving research in the pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Program, which is a now a collaborative effort between Sylvester, Jackson Memorial’s Holtz Children’s Hospital and Miami Children’s Hospital.
Led by Dr. Krishna Komanduri, the adult Stem Cell Transplant Program is growing and thriving in beautiful new quarters in the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. The unit received rave reviews from the surveyors during the recent accreditation review by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT).
Destroying Cancers with a Virus Specially Engineered at Sylvester
Dr. Jaime Merchan completed preclinical development of a Vesicular Stomatitis Virus that is specially engineered in the laboratory of Dr. Glen Barber. The engineered VSV virus has little impact on normal human cells, but is very destructive to cancer cells. Dr. Barber tagged the virus with Interferon-beta, which enhances its cell-killing effect on cancer cells. A Phase I clinical trial testing this new treatment will open soon for patients with recurrent Head and Neck cancer. These studies will determine whether this approach could be a major advance in the treatment of cancer patients.
Dr. Alan Pollack is also working with Barber to test this viral vector against prostate cancer in pre-clinical models. The vector has also shown very strong activity against prostate cancer cells, and will also be tested to see if it enhances the effects of radiation therapy on these cells.
New Discovery May Result in a Targeted Treatment for Aggressive Forms of Esophageal Cancer.
By analyzing tumor samples from our patients with esophageal cancer, Sylvester scientists discovered that a protein called Notch was more plentiful on the most aggressive forms of this disease. Working together, they developed an assay to sift through many different potential drugs to identify ones that might neutralize Notch; through this process they have identified a lead compound that specifically inhibits Notch function. This compound is now under consideration for testing in a Phase I clinical trial. This work is especially significant since aggressive forms of esophageal cancer are deadly, and they are becoming more common.
Innovative work in Sylvester’s Exciting Nanotechnology Program
Dr. Richard Cote and his team have developed a groundbreaking process to determine if malignant cells are circulating in the blood of cancer patients. This process is fundamental to understanding the spread of cancer through the blood stream to other organs. They are now studying the use of this technology in two new clinical trials for patients with prostate cancer and bladder cancer.
Improved targeting of Radiation Therapy in Patients with Prostate Cancer
Dr. Alan Pollack is internationally recognized for his expertise in using new technique to enhance the delivery of radiation therapy, and improve outcomes for patients with prostate cancer. Delivering radiation more precisely and effectively to the cancer not only helps assure the destruction of the cancer, but also minimizes side effects by sparing the nearby normal tissues.
In addition, two projects in the laboratory were supported by DCC funds that have the potential to enhance radiation killing of prostate cancer cells. For one project, Dr. Pollack is collaborating with Dr. Eli Gilboa to develop a novel way to destroy prostate cancer cells by exploiting their sensitivity to male hormones. Hormone therapy is commonly used with radiation to ensure tumor eradication, but it is associated with significant side effects. This new approach would bypass these side effects and target the hormone receptor only in prostate cancer cells. Such approaches have the potential to impact patients on a broad level.
Advances in Breast Cancer
Dr. Ralf Landgraf studies a molecular pathway that is fundamental to the malignant behavior of breast cancer cells. Signals within the cells, initiated by the ERBB family of receptor proteins, control many aspects of how the cells mature, proliferate, invade surrounding tissue and undergo natural cell death. Understanding these pathways has profound implications for the development of targeted therapies for breast cancer.
Dr. Tan Ince developed a unique method to grow cancer cells from individual patients in culture, and this in turn allows him to determine how the cancer cells respond to various experimental therapies in the lab, without actually giving the treatments to patients. An exciting aspect of this work has led him to propose a new classification of breast cancer, and to suggest that in the future we may be able to treat significant subset of breast cancer patients with multi-hormone therapy, rather than with the chemotherapy that is given to them today.