Faculty Honored with Women’s Cancer Association Researcher of the Year Award

Three Miller School of Medicine faculty women, who collaborated to develop a rapid human papillomavirus (HPV) test to prevent cervical cancer among minority and underserved women, were recently honored with the Researcher of the Year award by the Women’s Cancer Association of UM.

Erin Kobetz-Kerman, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine and Associate Director for Disparities and Community Outreach for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., Pharm. D., M.S., professor and Lucille P. Markey Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Associate Director of the Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute, and Sapna K. Deo, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, were honored at the association’s February 28 “Dancing for a Cure” Gala held at the UM Newman Alumni Center.

The Women’s Cancer Association, a longtime community supporter and champion of cancer research, funded the rapid HPV test project in 2014.

“We are so grateful to the Women’s Cancer Association for the support of our work,” said Kobetz-Kerman, a public health expert who has dedicated her career to battling health disparities in South Florida.

“We especially love that this work was supported by a women’s organization,” she added. “Their vision and commitment to the cause makes it possible for us, as women scientists, to really innovate on prevention opportunity, so that even the most vulnerable women can participate.”

Since HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer, the point of care test may change the standard of prevention, particularly in minority and resource-challenged communities. The project was an important example of Miller School women researchers pooling their varying expertise to effect change in the lives of other women.

“I am very grateful to the association. The grant enabled us to create a game changer in the field of cervical cancer prevention and detection,” said Daunert, one of the Miller School’s top biochemists who created the test kit in the lab with Deo and used the project as a teaching experience for students.

“The project was an opportunity to engage students in research in the laboratory and the clinic, thus helping train the next generation of scientists and physician scientists in cancer research,” said Daunert.

Deo, Kobetz-Kerman and Daunert attended the gala with their daughters and were elated to be honored in their presence.

“It has been an honor to receive this award, especially with our daughters by our sides,” said Deo. “I am fortunate for the opportunity provided by the Women’s Cancer Association funding to help advance this HPV paper strip detection technology that will be useful in preventing cervical cancer in underserved populations.”

Since its inception in 1959, the Women’s Cancer Association has donated more than $12 million to the University for cancer research. The organization also has provided funds for the pediatric palliative care program, established the bereavement room for families of pediatric cancer patients, and supplied educational materials for the library at the Batchelor Children’s Research Institute.

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