Honoring Sean’s Legacy

Fundraiser in honor of young Hollywood producer supports Sylvester’s Neuroendocrine Tumor Program research.

Cancer patient Sean Stone walking in Hollywood
Sean Stone

Sean Stone believed in living life to the fullest.

After graduating from college, he packed up everything and moved to California to pursue his dream of making it in the film industry. Having worked his way up from the mailroom, Stone was widely considered a rising star in Hollywood, producing action movies starring actors such as John Travolta and Bruce Willis.

Sadly, his talent will never be fully recognized, as Stone’s young life was cut short in March, just eight months after being diagnosed with metastatic neuroendocrine cancer of the colon, a rare and extremely aggressive type of cancer.

Disheartened that there were few treatment options beyond chemotherapy, Stone’s family and friends are now honoring his legacy by creating Sean Stone’s Neuroendocrine Carcinoma Fundraiser. Their goal is to raise funds to support the groundbreaking research being conducted at the Neuroendocrine Tumor Program at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and South Florida’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. The program is led by internationally recognized neuroendocrine expert Aman Chauhan, M.D., a Sylvester medical oncologist and associate professor of medical oncology at the Miller School.

“Losing Sean was truly tragic, but our hope through this philanthropy is to provide Dr. Chauhan and his team of incredible physician-scientists with the resources necessary to understand this terrible disease better and advance their search for promising treatments,” said Greg Baker, Stone’s best friend since childhood who is helping the family organize the UCare fundraiser. 

Affecting eight in every 100,000 people, neuroendocrine cancers are a diverse group of cancers originating in the neuroendocrine cells. They can be found anywhere in the body. The most common are neuroendocrine tumors. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and singer Aretha Franklin both died of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, and singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffet died of Merkel cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer derived from neuroendocrine cells.

Stone had the more aggressive neuroendocrine carcinoma. The disease has a five-year survival rate of less than 10%. Most patients succumb within a year of diagnosis.

One of the reasons high-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma is so lethal is that there have been no major changes in treatment since the 1980s. During that period, its incidence has increased while most other cancers have declined or remained stagnant.

Dr. Aman Chauhan
Dr. Aman Chauhan says neuroendocrine carcinoma has been understudied because it’s so rare.

“While there has been progress made in treating neuroendocrine tumors, the low-grade or slow-growing variety of neuroendocrine cancer, the more aggressive variety, the high-grade, poorly differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma, has been often overlooked by the medical community because it is so rare. That has resulted in this cancer being understudied, with limited treatment options,” said Dr. Chauhan, director of the Neuroendocrine Cancer Program at Sylvester and co-director of the Radiopharmaceutical Drug Development Program at the Miller School. “At Sylvester, we are now making this a top priority. Our Neuroendocrine Tumor Program serves as a hub for research and clinical care, treating more than 400 patients in its first year.”

Believing that new drug development is critical to establishing Sylvester as a neuroendocrine center of excellence, Dr. Chauhan is focused on immunotherapy and radiopharmaceutical drugs that use nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat medical conditions. He is currently designing an innovative, first-in-human study from testing a novel oncolytic virus (Seneca Valley Virus) in combination with immunotherapy. Dr. Chauhan also serves as co-principal investigator in four national, multi-center clinical trials using radiation-based drugs to manage neuroendocrine tumors.

“The advancements Dr. Chauhan is making in this field align perfectly with Sylvester’s commitment to taking on the rarest and most aggressive forms of cancer,” said Stephen Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester, Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and executive dean of research at the Miller School. “We are privileged to have him here at Sylvester leading our Neuroendocrine Tumor Program.”

Although Dr. Chauhan did not treat Stone, his family and friends have faith that he is on the cusp of discovering novel treatments and, ultimately, a cure for neuroendocrine carcinoma, so no other family experiences their pain.

“Our family is committed to supporting Dr. Chauhan’s work as a way to honor Sean’s legacy and make a meaningful impact on the fight against neuroendocrine carcinoma,” said Stone’s sister, Ashley. “This fundraiser will ensure that Sean’s journey and memory continue to inspire hope and progress against this terrible disease, and ultimately save lives.”

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Tags: Dr. Aman Chauhan, neuroendocrine cancer, Neuroendocrine Tumor Program, philanthropy