Longtime Sylvester Supporter Establishes Dwoskin Children’s Cancer Research Fund

The new fund will sponsor studies on glioblastoma and other aggressive brain tumors in children.

A group of people standing in a health care setting.
Blake Woityra; Stephen D. Nimer, M.D.; Debbie Mays; Steven Dwoskin; Antonio Iavarone, M.D.; Lisa Dwoskin; Anna Lasorella, M.D.; and Ashlee Woityra.

To call Steven Dwoskin a visionary would be an understatement. He clearly envisions a world without cancer and is doing everything within his power to help make that happen, most recently committing $3.75 million to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center to establish the Dwoskin Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

Dwoskin is a decades-long supporter of Sylvester, part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and channels his efforts and philanthropy into supporting cutting-edge research and innovative technology at South Florida’s only nationally ranked and National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. One of his proudest accomplishments was establishing the Dwoskin Proton Therapy Center, which brought advanced cancer-fighting technology to Sylvester. He is hoping to make an even greater impact with his latest endeavor: the Dwoskin Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

“My brother and my father died of cancer, and that was devastating. But when a 7- or 8-year-old child has cancer and dies, I just cannot handle that,” said Dwoskin. “I knew I needed to do something to support Sylvester researchers’ critical work to find breakthroughs to treat and cure children’s cancers.”

A photo of two people standing together.
Antonio Iavarone, M.D., and Steven Dwoskin

The Dwoskin Children’s Cancer Research Fund will support the work of Antonio Iavarone, M.D., and Anna Lasorella, M.D., two renowned pediatric neuro-oncologists and experts in glioblastoma and other aggressive brain tumors. Both researchers recently joined Sylvester.

Brain tumors are the No. 1 cause of cancer death in children.

“We are concentrating on these tumors because they are the most significant unmet challenge in pediatric oncology. There are no other tumors that are more aggressive than this,” said Dr. Iavarone, deputy director of Sylvester and professor of neurological surgery and biochemistry and molecular biology at the Miller School.

Developing Precision Medicine in Pediatric Oncology

While treatment remains a challenge with these aggressive tumors, researchers are hopeful for the science that may produce more precision medicine. In the meantime, pediatric oncologists are working hard to understand how to minimize the physical side effects and any lingering impairments from radiation and medicine.

Watching children suffer and sustain lifelong side effects from treatment is one of the reasons Dr. Lasorella moved from clinical practice into research. As the professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Miller School and member of Sylvester explained, “At some point I said, ‘This is not sustainable. We need to find a new treatment with better results.’”

The two physicians, who are partners in the laboratory and marriage, believe the solution is precision medicine. They are now leading a team of researchers studying tumor cells to target genes and functions that allow the tumor to grow, proliferate and affect the brain around it. Using sophisticated tools and computational analysis, they hope to discover commonalities that can guide treatment.

“We are absolutely convinced that if we can understand the molecular mechanisms driving the tumor aggressiveness then we can therapeutically target them in individual patients,” explained Dr. Iavarone. “Thanks to Mr. Dwoskin and the research funding, we will for the first time be able to study the molecular and genetic features of these tumors to identify therapeutic opportunities for children. Our goal is to develop new platforms for precision medicine.”

The physician-scientists have already documented success with this in adult patients, and are confident that research funded by Dwoskin will reveal similar success in children with aggressive brain tumors.

“I am impressed by his strong commitment and conviction. Mr. Dwoskin has placed his full confidence in us and that is an enormous responsibility,” said Dr. Lasorella. “We are obviously extremely grateful. Without his financial support, we would not be able to do this specialized research. He is a hero.”

Noting how Dwoskin’s transformative gift will help accelerate Sylvester’s impact in neuro-oncology, Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., who is also Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and professor of medicine, biochemistry, and molecular biology at the Miller School said, “We are grateful for friends like Steven, who share our vision and mission to find new cancer cures.

“The advances our scientists are making thanks to his incredible generosity to establish the Dwoskin Children’s Cancer Research Fund will profoundly impact the lives of children and families not only in our South Florida community but throughout the world.”

Tags: Dr. Anna Lasorella, Dr. Antonio Iavarone, Dr. Stephen Nimer, Dwoskin Children’s Cancer Research Fund, glioblastoma research, pediatric oncology, Steven Dwoskin, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center