Inaugural Cancer Symposium Shares Research Findings

Three of the nation’s top cancer researchers — each targeting a different form of the disease — were the keynote speakers at the University of Miami Cancer Symposium “Cancer Prevention and Treatment,” held January 24 at the Lois Pope LIFE Center Auditorium. The symposium was organized under the auspices of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Department of Urology.

“Thank you for attending what I believe will be another groundbreaking forum at the Miller School,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs, Dean of the Miller School and CEO of UHealth. “We hope this inaugural event will become an annual gathering of some of the brightest minds working in the field of cancer.”

Vinata B. Lokeshwar, Ph.D., professor of urology and Co-Director of the Miami CTSI Pilot and Translational Studies Component, and her husband, Balakrishna L. Lokeshwar, Ph.D., also professor of urology, were two of the primary organizers of the symposium. “We are grateful to have had invaluable input from the Program Committee – Dr. Marc Lippman, Dr. Diana Lopez and Dr. Alan Pollack, and logistical assistance from Zurama Rodriguez and Luis Lopez in making this event a success,” she said. “Attracting outside speakers who are leaders in their respective fields gave our researchers and students valuable perspectives on their own work.”

Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., added his own perspective on the importance of shared research. “The role played by cancer centers has changed,” he said. “Early detection and screening have become mandates from society, and research is the new focus. As a result, cancers that were incurable five to 10 years ago are now curable.”

Sponsors of the event were the Dr. Edwin Cevallos Family and Drs. Helen and David Wei. Cevallos, developer of BIRM, a root extract from a plant found in the Ecuadorean Amazon region that is being consumed as an immune system builder and an experimental anticancer agent, spoke of the value of treatments found in nature.

Mark Soloway, M.D., professor and chairman emeritus of the Department of Urology, sponsored the poster awards. Before the symposium speakers began, Soloway was honored with an award for his lifetime of service in the field of urologic oncology. He told the audience his formula for research success: “If you have the right idea, then get the right team and pursue it.”

The first principal speaker was William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., the Marion I. Knott Professor of Oncology and Director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University. Nelson’s topic was “Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented?” He said the search for an answer requires a collaborative effort by researchers — “stretching the dialogue across all disciplines.”

Shrikant Anant, Ph.D., the Tom and Teresa Walsh Professor of Cancer and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Kansas Medical Center, spoke on “Cancer Stemness: Quiet Cells Need Knocking Down a Notch.” The key to killing tumors, he told the audience, is a refined treatment model that targets cancer stem cells.

The third speaker was Victoria L. Seewaldt, M.D., professor of medicine at Duke University, where she leads the Breast Cancer Early Detection Program and a Durham community outreach program for underserved women. Her topic was “In Praise of Small Science: A Duke-Durham Partnership to Investigate the Biology of Interval Cancers.” Working with groups of women at high risk for triple-negative breast cancer, she said, has demonstrated that “biology trumps access to medical care.”

Two postdoctoral fellows who were recipients of the top poster awards also gave short presentations of their research work — Travis Yates, Ph.D., on “4-MU: Dietary Supplement Turned Chemo-Preventive and Anti-Metastatic Agent for Prostate Cancer” and Julie Marie Matthews, Ph.D., on “Germinal Center Kinase Regulates the Proliferation and Survival of Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma.”

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