Dr. Jashodeep Datta Honored with the DiMare Family Endowed Chair in Immunotherapy
Heralded as a “superstar,” renowned cancer researcher and physician Jashodeep Datta, M.D., was recently presented with the DiMare Family Endowed Chair in Immunotherapy.
Dr. Datta, associate director of translational research at the Sylvester Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and assistant professor of surgery in the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery, was praised for his groundbreaking research developing novel immunotherapies to treat pancreatic cancer.
At the Feb. 20 ceremony, Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., called immunotherapy a game changer and credited the DiMare family for recognizing its potential. He pointed out that in addition to presenting the DiMare Family Endowed Chair in Immunotherapy to Dr. Datta, the DiMares had previously presented the Paul J. DiMare Endowed Chair in Immunotherapy to C. Ola Landgren, M.D., Ph.D., chief of Myeloma Division and leader of the Translational and Clinical Oncology Program, to further his research integrating immunotherapy into the development of curative treatment strategies for multiple myeloma.
“Dr. Datta and Dr. Landgren are phenomenal examples of researchers who have dedicated their lives to finding cures. Their research is focused on understanding how you can harness your body’s power to eliminate your cancer,” said Dr. Nimer, also the Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. “I think the DiMare family’s generosity in this area is going to make huge differences in cancer treatment.”
DiMare Family’s Philanthropic Impact on Sylvester
Several speakers shared that sentiment, speaking fondly of the impact Paul DiMare made on Sylvester and the University. DiMare, chief executive officer and president of DiMare Fresh and a longtime UM trustee and benefactor, passed away on Dec. 30 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 81.
Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean of the Miller School, called DiMare a philanthropic leader, citing his $6 million gift to support medical education scholarships and an endowment fund at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis to support research into neurodegenerative disorders.
“Paul’s passing is a tremendous loss for all who knew him, which is one of the reasons why we are so honored to present this chair in the DiMare family name,” said Dean Ford. “It will exist in perpetuity, thereby strengthening and immortalizing Paul’s remarkable legacy.”
Calling endowed chairs critical for universities, the University of Miami President Julio Frenk explained that “they allow us to attract incredibly talented faculty, the best and brightest medical minds who are on the cutting edge of discovery for the prevention and treatment of cancer.”
President Frenk added that with the DiMare Family Endowed Chair in Immunotherapy, the University had established 93 endowed chairs as part of its “100 Talents” initiative to secure 100 new endowed positions before UM’s centennial in 2025.
Jeffrey L. Duerk, Ph.D., executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, credited the DiMare family for their role in helping UM reach that lofty goal. He also recognized the impact they have made across the University, citing Paul’s proud service on the Board of Trustees for 18 years.
“I thank the DiMare family for their remarkable leadership, which will improve patient outcomes and deliver cures for generations to come,” said Provost Duerk.
Swanee DiMare, Paul’s widow, said her family is proud to be associated with Sylvester and the physician-researchers who dedicate their lives to curing cancer.
“Through this endowed chair, Paul had wanted part of his legacy to be enduring research,” said Mrs. DiMare. “His long journey with advanced cancer treatments showed us what is possible, and that there is so much more to be learned and many more lives that can be saved. We hope that one day the research done here will change the course of patient care and lead to the eradication of deadly cancers.”
Sylvester Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute
Laurence R. Sands, M.D., M.B.A., interim chair of the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery and chief of the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, said that that hope may soon become a reality. “Dr. Datta’s single-minded dedication to exemplary and innovative research is bringing us closer to promising results,” said Dr. Sands, who is also the Laurence R. Sands Endowed Chair in Colon and Rectal Surgery.
Much of this research is taking place in the newly established Sylvester Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute, where Dr. Datta works alongside its founding director, Nipun Merchant, M.D. A longtime mentor and friend, Dr. Merchant was instrumental in recruiting Dr. Datta to Sylvester in 2019 and has since collaborated with him on numerous studies.
They recently co-authored a study in the journal Gastroenterology that showed for the first time how targeted immunotherapy addresses one of the major reasons pancreatic cancer is treatment resistant. Their findings laid the foundation for an investigator-initiated clinical trial that just enrolled its first two patients.
“Dr. Datta’s laboratory-to-bedside approach as a surgeon-scientist will result in life-changing discoveries,” said Dr. Merchant, who is also the director of translational research at Sylvester and the Alan Livingstone Endowed Chair in Surgical Oncology. “It’s important to recognize he does all this great science while being a very busy clinical surgeon, doing some of the most complex surgeries in liver and pancreatic cancer.”
Moved by the outpouring of praise and support, a humbled Dr. Datta thanked the DiMare family for their generosity.
“This gift will not only honor your legacy but also catalyze even more transformational discoveries and treatments for our patients,” said Dr. Datta. “Our North Star is moving the needle for our patients. Our sleep at night will not be restful until we do that. In doing so, we will position Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center as the premier destination for pancreas cancer research nationally and globally.”
Tags: DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery, DiMare Family Endowed Chair in Immunotherapy, Dr. C. Ola Landgren, Dr. Jashodeep Datta, Dr. Laurence Sands, Dr. Nipun Merchant, immunotherapy, Paul J. DiMare, Swanee DiMare, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Sylvester Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute