Renowned Cancer Scientists Present Their Latest Findings at 48th Miami Winter Symposium

Leading scientists from around the world presented their latest findings on cellular, molecular and genetic approaches to treating cancer at the Miami Winter Symposium 2015, “Towards Personalized Cancer Medicine,” on January 18-21 at the Hyatt Regency Miami.

“We are moving at the speed of light into a new era of very specific treatments and away from classic chemotherapy,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine, and CEO of UHealth – University of Miami Health System, in his welcoming remarks. “By working together, we are finding new solutions for the prevention, treatment and cure of this terrible disease.”

More than 300 cancer researchers, clinicians and students attended the 48th annual Miami symposium, organized by the UM Miller School of Medicine, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Scripps Florida, University Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Foundation, Inc. and Elsevier.

“This assembly of world-renowned scientists covers the entire scope of our field, including stem cells, epigenetics, targeted therapies and the genomic explanation of cancer,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., Director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology.

Nimer presented his latest study on “Targeting histone modifying enzymes in the treatment of acute leukemia” at the symposium. “We have many research students who took advantage of this learning opportunity,” he said, “and I expect some of our young scientists will be giving these talks in 10 or 20 years.”

Goldschmidt paid tribute to symposium co-chair William J. Whelan, D.Sc., F.R.S., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, who launched the symposium in 1968 and recently celebrated his 90th birthday. “Through the years, Bill Whelan has created and nurtured this program, which continues to attract some of the world’s top scientists,” Goldschmidt said.

Reflecting on the history of the symposium, Whelan said that Miami was “off the beaten path” when he joined the medical school 48 years ago. “I had some experience in arranging conferences and was able to obtain funding from the Dean to hold the first symposium. Since then, we have been able to line up major sponsors every year, while attracting top-caliber researchers.”

The symposium’s two other co-chairs were Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Dean for Therapeutic Innovation and professor of psychiatry and biochemistry and molecular biology at the Miller School; and Angelo Azzi, M.D., Ph.D., International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB)/Vascular Biology Laboratory, Tufts University.

Noting that each annual symposium has a biomedical theme, such as the brain in 2014 and inflammation in 2016, Wahlestedt said, “Today, every discipline is talking about the personalization of treatment. In that regard, cancer is leading the way. We know that cancer is different in every patient, and in the future, treatments will be tailor-made for each individual.”

Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., Pharm.D., professor and Lucille P. Markey Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, chaired the program committee for the symposium, whose six sessions focused on the following topics:

• Heterogeneity of Cancer Genomes and Therapeutic Implications • Epigenetics and Therapeutic Implications • Cancer Stem Cells • Targeting Cancer Subsets • Targeting Cancer Mutations • Immunotherapy and Gene Therapy

At the four-day symposium, several scientists were recognized by their colleagues for their outstanding work:

• The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Carl June, M.D., University of Pennsylvania, who spoke on “CAR T Cells for Leukemia and Beyond?”

• Jay Bradner, M.D., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard University, received the Special Achievement Award, and delivered a talk on “Clinical Translation of Bromodomain Inhibition.”

• Brian Druker, M.D., Oregon Health and Science University, presented the IUBMB Jubilee Lecture on “Imatinib as a Paradigm of Molecularly Targeted Cancer Therapies.”

• James Downing, M.D., St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, delivered the Distinguished Service Award Lecture on “The Pediatric Cancer Genome Project: Lessons Learned.”

• Roeland Nusse, Ph.D., Stanford University, delivered the Feodor Lynen Lecture on “Wnt signaling Stem Cell Control and Cancer.”

Summing up the spirit of the seminar, Goldschmidt said, “At UM we transform lives through teaching, research and service. This symposium reflects our dedication to research, and I invite you all to take advantage of this remarkable opportunity to take part in conversations and foster collaborations that can lead to finding new treatments and cures for patients with cancers.”

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