Photo: Cleveland Clinic
Research and Innovation
Cancer Care: Statewide efforts
Florida treatment centers are stepping up efforts to help patients recover quickly.
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Keying in on Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer
Last year, the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center opened an early detection clinic to identify women at high risk for developing ovarian cancer and to develop preventive strategies.
Patients are screened for a personal or family history of cancer and may undergo testing to check for mutations in cancer-causing genes. The staff includes gynecologic oncologists, genetic counselors and radiologists trained to find gynecologic cancers.
One strategy for post-menopausal women with the gene mutations is to remove the patients’ ovaries and fallopian tubes. That’s believed to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by about 90% and the risk of breast cancer by at least 50%.
Brian Slomovitz, division director of gynecologic oncology at Sylvester, says genetic testing for the mutations also can help doctors devise more effective treatment plans. “We know that ovarian cancer in one woman is not the same in another woman,” he says. “This enables us to come up with a more personalized approach.”
Cleveland Clinic Florida
Healing Involves More Than Medicine
At the newly opened Maroone Cancer Center in Weston, programs and services to help cancer patients cope with stress and heal faster have taken center stage. In addition to new medical technologies, patients will have access to art therapy, reiki treatments, gentle yoga and other programs designed to speed recovery.
“The idea is that patients come in and concentrate on getting well, and we support them,” says center director Dr. Steven Roshon. “It’s very patient-centric.”
The Maroone Cancer Center is part of the new 143,000-sq.-ft. Egil and Pauline Braathen Center at Cleveland Clinic Florida. It shares a five-story glass building with the new Pauline Braathen Neurological Center.
Construction began after Pauline Braathen, a philanthropist and longtime patient, contributed $30 million toward the building’s $90-million cost. The Maroone family, known for its car dealerships, subsequently made a multimillion-dollar donation to the cancer center.
Last year, Cleveland Clinic handled about 1,600 new cancer cases in Weston. Roshon expects that number to grow 10% to 20% this year, partly because it’s adding radiation oncology to its treatment options. He notes that it’s the first hospital-based facility in the southeastern U.S. to use a new radiosurgery technology called Varian Edge, designed to localize and target tumors more accurately and over a shorter period of time.
“Our goal is to make more cancer survivors and get them back to their loved ones,” Roshon says.
Miami Cancer Institute
Consolidating Cancer Services
Construction is under way on Baptist Health South Florida’s $430-million Miami Cancer Institute. Scheduled to be finished next year, the 395,000-sq.-ft. facility will bring together all of Baptist Health’s cancer services. Three-fourths of the space will be used for clinical cancer care and the rest for research.
The center will offer proton therapy to more precisely deliver radiation to tumors — an especially important treatment option for some children with cancer. It also will devote a wing to supporting cancer patients and their families through programs such as art and music therapy and healthy cooking classes.
“It’s going to take cancer services at Baptist and elevate them to the equivalent of an academic center,” says deputy director Dr. Leonard Kalman, longtime head of Miami-based oncology group Advanced Medical Specialties.
He says discussions are under way about forming an academic partnership, with an announcement expected by early next year.
Limiting Radiation’s Harmful Effects on Healthy Cells
More than 6 million cancer patients worldwide are expected to undergo radiation therapy this year. And most will experience harmful side effects, says Cheryl Baker, founder, CEO and chief scientific officer of BioCurity, a central Florida biotech startup.
As one possible solution, BioCurity has created a drug that reduces and prevents radiation damage to healthy tissue, while also helping oncologists do a better job of shrinking cancer tumors.
“Over time, we’ve had to scale back the amount of radiation we deliver to patients because the damage to normal tissue has become such a problem,” Baker says. By blocking that damage, “we can go back to delivering really effective doses.”
Baker launched BioCurity in 2010 after overseeing the Cancer Research Institute at MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando. She had been working to develop the drug for five years and knew she was onto something. “The next step was to go out and raise money.”
For help with the business side of things, she turned to her alma mater, Rollins College, and its Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship at the Crummer Graduate School of Business. She won its 2013 Crummer Venture Plan Competition, earning $25,000, and raised about $650,000 in startup funding.
Meanwhile, she also has partnered with the University of Central Florida through a license agreement to fine-tune BioCurity’s pharmaceutical technology. Her next step: Securing FDA approval to begin phase one clinical trial testing.
Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute
Expanding Its Reach
Fort Myers-based Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute is expanding in Gainesville and replacing its old building with one almost twice as big. The medical group has begun construction on a 25,000-sq.-ft. building at North Florida Regional Medical Center to house its doctors’ practice and research efforts. Opening is scheduled for spring 2016.