Woman’s Cancer Association Holds Annual Grant Luncheon

To help support innovative cancer research, the Woman’s Cancer Association (WCA) of the University of Miami held its annual WCA Grant and Installation Luncheon May 14 in Coconut Grove.

The WCA has a long history of raising funds to support the physician-researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Since their inception in 1959, the group has raised more than $12 million to promote cancer research, patient needs, and education.

“We are proud to have the association with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and wonderful research going on here locally,” said Nora Tenney, the immediate past president of the WCA. “We are proud to provide seed money to get things going for the researchers so that they can then qualify for even greater grants.”

The WCA presented five $50,000 grants, totaling $250,000, for research projects at the Miller School and Sylvester. The grant recipients are:

Francisco Vega, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology and Director of Hematopathology, and Chae Hwa Kim, M.D., research fellow, for the research study “Effect of Combining SMO and BTK Inhibitors in a Human Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma Xennograft Model.”

Noriyuki Kasahara, M.D., Ph.D., professor of cell biology and pathology, for the research study “Retroviral replicating vector (RRV) mediated gene therapy of brain-metastatic breast cancer.”

Arlene Garcia-Soto, M.D., gynecology oncology fellow, and Brian M. Slomovitz, M.D., Co-Leader of the Gynecologic Cancers Site Disease Group and Chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Sylvester, for the research study “Prospective Evaluation of Robotic Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy for Management of Early Endometrial Cancer.”

Kerry L. Burnstein, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cellular pharmacology, for the research study “Nano-medicines for Metastatic Prostate Cancer.”

Nagi Ayad, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Stephan Schuerer, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology and Lead Scientist of the Center for Computational Science, Ronan Swords, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, the Pap Corps Endowed Professor in Leukemia, and Co-Leader of the Leukemia/Lymphoma/Myeloma Site Disease Group, and Arthur Zelent, Ph.D., research professor of medicine, for the study “Developing Dual FL T3-BET Inhibitors for Treating Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.”

In addition to the grants, the WCA also awarded $5,000 from the Silver Lady Fund to the Palliative Care Program at Holtz Children’s Hospital at UM/Jackson Memorial Medical Center and G. Patricia Cantwell, M.D., the Director of Pediatric Palliative Care at Holtz, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at the Miller School of Medicine, the Pediatric Medical Director of TiLLiKids/Heartland and Medical Manager of US&R South Florida Task Force 2. The Silver Lady Fund supports cancer patients with special needs.

In recent years, the WCA has also established the bereavement room for families of pediatric cancer patients and supplied educational materials for the library at the Batchelor Children’s Research Institute.

Other support from the all-volunteer organization includes the Pearl M. and Edwin L. Powell Woman’s Cancer Association Endowment Fund. Each year, the WCA awards a grant to a cancer research doctor at Sylvester from the endowment’s accrued interest. In late 2014, Macarena de la Fuente, M.D., an assistant professor, received a $30,000 grant for her research in brain cancer.

The WCA’s funding is a result of individual and family grants, community partners, corporate sponsors, fundraisers, and proceeds from their resale store, the Bargain Box, located at 1350 W. Flagler Street.

“We are so grateful to the Woman’s Cancer Association for their support,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., Director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology. “The funds raised will help lead to the advances that will save the lives of people in this community.”

In the late 1950s, 28 Dade County women met to discuss ways to help fight the battle against cancer. By 1959, the group had adopted its organizational charter as the Woman’s Cancer Association of the University of Miami (WCA).

The WCA mission then, and now, is to support cancer research, patients’ needs and education. There are currently three chapters that comprise the Woman’s Cancer Association – the Barton Ravlin Chapter, Franklin Bush Chapter and Heidi Hewes Chapter.

The WCA remains committed to supporting physicians and scientists who treat both pediatric and adult cancer patients.

“I have just been so touched by the relationships I have had with the Miller School of Medicine, Sylvester, and all of the doctors and the outstanding things happening here,” said Tenney, who is stepping aside for new president Linda Leiber. “It is really exciting to see this happening locally and the increasing number of people surviving cancer.”

For more information, visit the WCA website at

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