Medical History in the Making

The last century saw seminal achievements in understanding the biological underpinnings and genetic causes of cancer; however, the era of genomics, proteomics, and the fully sequenced human genome is upon us, making the 21st century an exciting time to be involved in cancer research and treatment. The University of Miami is leading the discoveries that will advance the field.

We are well-poised to do so by virtue of our unique geographic location—serving as a gateway not only to much of the southeastern United States, but to Latin America and the Caribbean as well—and because of the wide variety of patients University of Miami physicians care for each day.

The School of Medicine has already established its leadership in the rapidly evolving area of viral oncology. William Harrington, M.D., head of the viral oncology program at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, has capitalized on clinical observations made at the bedside regarding treatments with antiviral agents that have resulted in surprising remissions. He has brought these results back to the laboratory to investigate the mechanisms underlying these novel therapies. Using sophisticated molecular tools, Glenn Barber, Ph.D., and Lawrence Boise, Ph.D., have identified NF-{kappa}-B, a protein regulating transcription, as a major molecular target for intervention and have devised a series of treatments currently in clinical testing at our center and others in central nervous system lymphomas, adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma related to HTLV-1 virus infection, and HIV-1 related lymphomas.

The addition of Joyce Slingerland, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Toronto, Sunnybrook, to our faculty has marked an important step in our institutional efforts in diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of breast cancer. On the strength of a generous donation from the Norman and Irma Braman Family Foundation to found the Braman Breast Cancer Institute, Slingerland will serve as director to bring together many diverse research efforts in creating a world-class translational research and treatment center. In addition to her impressive research credentials, Slingerland is a clinician with special expertise in breast cancer treatment. Currently recruiting a clinical director for the center and additional medical oncologists with focused research interests in breast cancer, she has engaged the Depart-ments of Radiology, Pathology, and Epidemiology to recruit outstanding investigators to tackle the disease.

Launching an important effort in understanding the molecular epidemiology and pathogenesis of human lymphomas, Izidore Lossos, M.D., recently joined the faculty from Stanford University. Lossos has made important contributions to the understanding of lymphoma biology and prognosis through the use of cDNA array technology. By analyzing expression of more than 30,000 genes at a time, he has identified two key genes, BCL-6 and GAL, which appear to be very important prognostic indicators in large-cell lymphoma, a particularly virulent cancer.

To augment the substantial efforts in tumor immunology already in place at UM/Sylvester, the School of Medicine welcomed Khaled Tolba, M.D., who served on my staff at the University of Rochester and is a pioneer in the use of herpes gene therapy in the treatment of human leukemia. His expertise will enhance many existing studies, including the identification of new molecular targets in lymphoma by Eckhard Podack, M.D., Ph.D. Podack recently developed and licensed an antibody directed at CD30, a unique protein found on many human lymphomas, which has entered clinical testing at seven centers nationwide, including UM/Sylvester.

These accomplished physician-scientists and the new tools they bring to advance medicine have enabled the University of Miami to unequivocally claim its place within the top tier of cancer treatment and research.

Joseph Rosenblatt, M.D., is scientific director and chief of the Division of Hematology Oncology at the UM Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, as well as professor of hematology oncology at the School of Medicine.
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