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Message from the Director

Stephen Nimer, MD

Dear colleagues and supporters,

AS I REFLECT ON 2021, I am humbled by Sylvester’s impact on our community. The COVID-19 pandemic continued to shape us, but our resilience and adaptability allowed us to pursue our mission, conduct innovative science, and provide world-renowned cancer care.

Sylvester is focused on the “toughest to treat” cancers. In 2021, we laid the groundwork for the Sylvester Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute. Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States and is projected to become the second by 2030. Under the direction of Nipun Merchant, M.D., this center will combine our clinical strength with world-class research to discover, develop, and deliver novel, personalized treatments for pancreatic cancer.

Esophageal cancer is also difficult to treat, with poor survival outcomes. Wael El-Rifai, M.D., Ph.D., has assembled a team of researchers, including Alex Zaika, Ph.D., who are collaborating on a highly integrative project that brings together basic scientists and clinicians to investigate and identify therapeutic vulnerabilities in esophageal cancer. This work is slated for funding by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is itself an important accomplishment.

As an NCI-designated cancer center, Sylvester is the only center in South Florida that offers adult and pediatric patients access to groundbreaking, novel therapies, through its phase 1 clinical trial program directed by Jaime Merchan, M.D. In 2021, nearly 50 clinical trials were dedicated to the phase 1 program, and an additional 250 trials were also available to patients, giving hope to those who need more than the standard treatments.

We are testing other promising new therapies, as in a phase 2 study led by Craig Moskowitz, M.D., a renowned lymphoma expert, which tested a new protocol that is now expected to improve outcomes for relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma patients.

Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., and the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement led Sylvester’s initiatives to provide education and outreach programs to underserved populations to build healthier communities. In November, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized our diligent efforts to address cervical cancer and named Sylvester the first WHO Collaborating Centre for Cervical Cancer Elimination.

Our faculty, staff, donors, and patients are what make Sylvester a place of innovation and distinction. Armed with leading-edge technology, we continue to advance cancer research and develop new and targeted therapies that improve outcomes and save lives. Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment to excellence.

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
Executive Dean for Research, Miller School of Medicine
Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Professor of Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering