Hope Abounds at First Miami Translational and Clinical Oncology Symposium

Sylvester researchers presented their findings in a peer-to-peer symposium that featured colleagues from across the nation.

“I have a heavy lift,” said Jashodeep Datta, M.D., surgical oncologist and cancer researcher at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “Pancreatic cancer is resistant to immunotherapy. We recently celebrated the five-year survival rate reaching 12%. That’s a sobering reminder of how deadly it is.”

Dr. Datta joined fellow Sylvester researchers in a lineup of 117 national cancer experts at the First Miami Translational and Clinical Oncology Symposium recently to unveil some of the most promising research in the field. The event offered a forum for world-renowned scientists to share oral presentations on their research and discuss the latest advances in translational and clinical oncology.

The 12 cancer researchers who presented at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center's symposium, posing at the podium.
The First Miami Translational and Clinical Oncology Symposium hosted more than 100 of the nation’s most prominent cancer researchers, with the featured presenters shown above.

The heavy lift Dr. Datta spoke of is a familiar one to those in translational and clinical oncology research. Cancer may be medicine’s most formidable challenge, and progress is measured in steady steps more often than dramatic leaps. But as the symposium’s collective conversation progressed, an unwavering line of optimism could be detected in the words of each speaker. There’s hope in many directions and through transformative team science.

Sylvester’s Translational and Clinical Oncology Program

C. Ola Landgren, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Division of Myeloma at Sylvester, co-organized the event with Jamie Merchan, M.D., director of the phase 1 clinical trials program at Sylvester. Drs. Landgren and Merchan co-lead the Translational and Clinical Oncology Research Program (TCO), which was established July 2022 to bring novel laboratory discoveries to the clinical setting to have and create direct patient impact.

The TCO program integrates investigators from across Sylvester’s research programs to serve its diverse and unique patient population. The symposium, which will be an annual event, is an extension of the TCO.

“This is an exciting time in cancer research, here at Sylvester and across the world,” Dr. Landgren said. “Technology is enabling advances that, 25 years ago, we couldn’t have imagined.”

“Viable treatments are being discovered in laboratories and incorporated into care regimens faster than ever before,” added Dr. Merchan. “We wanted to bring some of the world’s finest researchers here to Miami, to share, collaborate and inspire one another with their work. That was the inspiration for the symposium.”

Oncology Symposium Highlights

Dr. Datta was part of a six-person morning session that focused on the future of early drug developments. Three Sylvester researchers offered synopses of their current research:

  • Dr. Datta identified tumor microenvironment-derived signaling crosstalk and cellular plasticity as catalysts for pancreas cancer’s immunotherapy resistance. His work will continue to target those mechanisms, and he emphasized the importance of using biomarkers and rational treatment combinations specific to each unique case.
  • Sylvester researcher Justin Taylor, M.D., explored Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) mutations that cause resistance to drugs for people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He is finding that kinase-dead BTK mutations have responded to treatment with clinical-grade PROTAC NX-2127.
  • Macarena de la Fuente, M.D., Sylvester associate professor of neurology, chief of neuro-oncology and co-chair of the Society for Neuro-Oncology’s Women and Diversity Committee, presented her work with targeted therapies for isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) mutant gliomas, the most common adult, malignant primary brain tumors in patients 50 years and younger.

Six more scientists presented in the technology-oriented afternoon, all of whom are using the latest computer science, data engineering and biological markers in their research. Three Sylvester researchers shared their work during the afternoon session:

  • Francesco Maura, M.D., assistant professor and co-principal investigator of the Myeloma Genomic Lab, pointed to whole genomic sequencing as a way to solve the riddle of multiple myeloma complexity and evolution, a technique that has become more feasible, affordable and reproducible due to technological advancements.
  • Anna Lasorella, M.D., Sylvester neuro-oncologist and an expert in aggressive tumors, spoke about how the rapidly expanding technology that comprises the new field of computational oncology offers new and effective ways to target tumors of the central nervous system.
  • Stephan Schürer, Ph.D., Sylvester’s associate director of data science, professor of pharmacology at the Miller School and director of digital drug discovery at the Institute for Data Science and Computing, spoke about using evolving data models to find effective treatments to subdue understudied kinases that often can lead to poor patient outcomes.

Six national oncology experts joined the Sylvester contingent as symposium presenters, including:

  • Vivek Subbiah, M.D., Sarah Cannon Research Institute
  • Paul Kluetz, M.D., U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • James Brugarolas, M.D., Ph.D., University of Texas-Southwestern
  • Eytan Ruppin, M.D., Ph.D., National Cancer Institute
  • Jeremy Setton, M.D., Memorial Sloan Kettering
  • Gareth Morgan, M.D., Ph.D., New York University

Tags: Dr. Anna Lasorella, Dr. C. Ola Landgren, Dr. Francesco Maura, Dr. Jaime Merchan, Dr. Jashodeep Datta, Dr. Justin Taylor, Dr. Macarena de la Fuente, Dr. Stephan Schürer, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Translational and Clinical Oncology Research Program