A Family’s Gift Establishes Sylvester Skin Cancer Initiative

The Beyer Family Skin Cancer Prevention and Control Initiative supports Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers as they work to reduce the frequency of skin cancer.

Tony and Vanessa Beyer, whose donation created the skin care initiative named after them.
Tony and Vanessa Beyer

Four years ago, Tony Beyer was diagnosed with secondary melanoma and given less than one year to live. After seeking treatment at a cancer institution far from his South Florida home, he turned to José Lutzky, M.D., director, Cutaneous Oncology Services at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of UHealth—University of Miami Health System.

Today, Tony is in remission. He and wife, Vanessa, have donated to Sylvester several times to generate awareness and improve outcomes for skin cancer patients.

“Dr. Lutzky and his team at Sylvester are world-class,” said Tony, founding partner and managing director of Poinciana Capital Partners. “The cutting-edge and comprehensive medical care I received saved my life. I feel fortunate to have a leading cancer center so close to home.”

Committed to Reducing Skin Cancers

With the the Dr. Phillip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, the Beyer’s most recent gift establishes the Beyer Family Skin Cancer Prevention and Control Initiative and supports Dr. Lutzky and his colleagues as they work to reduce the frequency of skin cancer.

“Florida has the second-highest rate of new melanoma cases, with about 9,640 new cases diagnosed in the state each year,” said Natalia Jaimes, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who is leading the initiative. “Although we cannot prevent skin cancer entirely, we can significantly reduce its incidence.”

Targeted Education for High-risk Skin Cancer Groups

The initiative provides targeted education on skin cancer prevention strategies to patients with skin cancer, high-risk family members, and the public. It incorporates the full spectrum of prevention, from education to screening and coordination of support services. 

Dr. Jaimes emphasizes the importance of healthy behaviors. She encourages young people to get to know their skin so they can identify anything new or changing. Shade is always better than sun, and hats, clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen provide additional protection.

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center doctor Natalia Jaimes, M.D.
Natalia Jaimes, M.D., is spearheading Sylvester’s skin cancer reduction initiative.

“We are providing individuals with clear and digestible information that will promote lasting positive behaviors,” said Dr. Jaimes. “We want sun protection to be as automatic as putting on a seatbelt or using an infant car seat.”  

The initiative also reaches out to professionals—primary care physicians, podiatrists, pediatricians, hairstylists, make-up artists, and massage therapists—who can be instrumental in skin cancer detection and prevention but may not be fully trained in current research and strategies.

Funding for Melanoma Studies

The Beyer’s gift will provide Dr. Lutzky with funds to continue his work on uveal and cutaneous melanoma and add more studies to the melanoma program’s clinical trials. 

Dr. Lutzky is grateful for the Beyer’s generosity throughout the years. 

“Philanthropic gifts help us generate the preliminary data that we need to apply for grants for additional research,” said Dr. Lutzky, also director of the Clinical Trials Unit at Sylvester and professor of clinical medicine at the Miller School. “These gifts have allowed us to make inroads in rare forms of cancer for which there is little funding.”

“Fifteen years ago, my diagnosis would have been a death sentence,” said Tony Beyer. “We must continue to fund Sylvester’s research to identify more durable treatments and find a cure for melanoma.”

Tags: Dr. Jose Lutzky, melanoma, Natalia Jaimes, philanthropy, skin cancer, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center