Two UM Researchers Awarded Forum on Women’s Health Grant

Joseph D. Rosenblatt, M.D., Chief of the Division of Hematology-Oncology in the Department of Medicine, and Seung-Uon Shin, Ph.D., research associate professor in the Division, have been awarded a grant that will help develop a new approach to the treatment of ovarian cancer.

The grant is provided by the Forum on Women’s Health, which is committed to promoting women’s health and wellness in collaboration with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“The Forum is committed to advancing the awareness of women in Broward and Palm Beach counties of the benefits of the world-class medicine practiced at the Miller School of Medicine that are available to them,” said Kimberly L. Barbar, President of the Forum on Women’s Health.

The $100,000 grant will help support research outlined in the proposal “Inhibition of Ovarian Cancer Growth and Metastasis by Combined Targeting of Angiogenesis, Vasculogenic Mimicry, and Tumor Motility,” which was selected as the sole recipient for the 2014 grant cycle.

“We are very grateful to the Forum on Women’s Health for supporting such important cancer research,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology and Director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “This approach, if successful, would be used to starve cancer cells of the nutrients they need to survive, and greatly improve the lives of women with ovarian cancer. We wish to stress the importance of the cutting-edge research we are doing at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, research that can make a difference.”

Rosenblatt, who is also professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology and William J. Harrington Chair in Hematology, says research has shown that human tumors have the ability to induce the growth of blood vessels that facilitate the supply of oxygen and nutrients, a process known as angiogenesis.

In recent years, researchers have learned that in addition to mobilizing blood vessel growth, tumor cells can also directly form vascular channels that link to the circulation and further enable tumor growth.

“Our laboratory has engineered antibody-fusion proteins that inhibit both angiogenesis, as well as vasculogenic mimicry by ovarian and breast cancers,” said Rosenblatt. “We believe that inhibiting vasculogenic mimicry and angiogenesis may be a very effective means of limiting cancer progression and metastasis. The generous grant by the Forum on Women’s Health will allow my laboratory, and that of my longtime colleague, Seung-Uon Shin, Ph.D., to test the utility of this novel approach in anticipation of human trials.”

The support comes at a critical moment in the development of the research, which could have life-saving ramifications.

“Ovarian cancer remains the deadliest of all gynecologic malignancies,” said Brian Slomovitz, M.D., Co-Leader of the Gynecologic Cancers Site Disease Group and Chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Sylvester. “It remains fifth in all cancer deaths among women. Studies such as this are needed in order to improve the outcome for women who suffer from this horrible disease.”

Founded in 2006, the Forum on Women’s Health is a volunteer organization composed of more than 300 women from Broward and Palm Beach counties. Their mission is to create awareness of the current research, treatments, and services at the Miller School of Medicine. Since the Forum’s inception, they have raised more than $400,000 to fund preventive services, such as Pap smears and HPV vaccine, to benefit more than 1,600 uninsured women.

In addition, the Forum continues to partner with the Mitchell Wolfson, Sr. Department of Community Service (DOCS) program at the Miller School and the Jack and Jill Children’s Center in Fort Lauderdale to provide a free health fair for the community.

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