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Message from the Director

Dear colleagues and supporters,

As we complete our first full year with NCI-designation, I am moved by the resoluteness and resiliency of our faculty, staff, donors and patients. Your teamwork, dedication and extraordinary efforts in pursuit of designation laid the foundation for Sylvester to maintain our unwavering commitment to solve cancer’s fundamental problems and respond to the pandemic. I remain grateful for your continued commitment to uphold the NCI’s rigorous standards.

Sylvester was able to contribute in many important ways to the University of Miami’s and UHealth’s response to COVID-19. We spearheaded critical efforts to rapidly build the SARS-CoV-2 testing infrastructure, with our faculty and staff providing expertise, instruments and reagents that allowed us to launch and then increase PCR-based testing. Nursing leaders and staff established and staffed the UM testing hotline, 243-TEST. We established UM’s contact tracing initiative U-TRACE and redirected nationally recognized community outreach efforts to COVID. Our physicians wrote clinical guidelines, and clinical faculty and staff transitioned to telehealth to ensure quality care. Sylvester members played such an important role in building this infrastructure that we co-wrote and published a “how-to” manual in Academic Pathology with colleagues from across the university and health system.

In our community, Dr. Erin Kobetz collaborated with Miami-Dade County leadership to establish the county-wide COVID-19 surveillance program SPARK-C, the first of its kind in the country. On a global level, Dr. Gilberto Lopes helped create the COVID-19 Cancer Consortium which worked quickly to collect and publish data in The Lancet. Sylvester was one of the founding institutions of this consortium.

Beyond COVID-19, we strengthened capacities to make breakthroughs, develop diagnostics and therapies, lead practicing-changing trials and address disparities. Sylvester’s Phase 1 Clinical Trials Program, the only in South Florida, continued enrolling. We remain a national leader in CAR-T cell trials.

In September 2020, Sylvester opened the Dwoskin Proton Therapy Center, offering patients access to leading-edge radiation therapy and conducting trials.

Among many scientific breakthroughs, Dr. J. William Harbour published findings from the first-ever single-cell analysis of uveal melanoma in Nature Communications.

Sylvester is one of only eight NCI-designated cancer centers participating in CATCH-UP 2020 which enhances access to targeted cancer therapies for underserved populations. Dr. Jonathan Trent is one of the project leaders. Drs. Frank Penedo and Erin Kobetz received an NCI T32 grant to create a new cancer disparities and equity training program.

We recruited renowned hematologic oncology visionaries to forge a blood cancer powerhouse. Dr. C. Ola Landgren, leads our multiple myeloma program, and is launching our Experimental Therapeutics research program, and Dr. Mikkael Sekeres, a leukemia and MDS expert, was named chief of the Division of Hematology.

Sylvester hosted the 2nd annual National Firefighter Cancer Symposium in February, drawing over 300 volunteer and professional firefighters and researchers to discuss cancer research, education and policy.

We were honored by a $126M landmark gift, $1M of which is earmarked towards career development for underrepresented minority trainees and faculty.

With hard work, dedication and support we continue investing in people and programs to build a long-lasting legacy. I hope this report reminds us of what we can achieve when we see challenges as chances.

With gratitude, 

Signature of Stephen Nimer

Stephen D. Nimer, M.D.
Director, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research 
Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology