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Sylvester Opens Satellite Office in Naples 

As the first NCI-designated Cancer Center with a Naples presence, Sylvester now offers top-tier care coordination and support services to Southwest Florida residents.     

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System, opened its first satellite outside Southeast Florida, Nov. 1. The new Cancer Care Coordination and Support Services office will be the first NCI-designated Cancer Center facility to serve residents of Naples and surrounding areas.

With Sylvester’s Stephen Nimer, M.D., (far left) and Frank Penedo, Ph.D., (to Dr. Nimer’s left) on hand, Florida Senator Kathleen Passidomo cuts the ribbon to commemorate the new Naples satellite office.

“Our mission is to reduce the human burden from cancer for residents of South Florida and beyond,” said Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D. “Our new Naples facility aligns with that mission by expanding our reach and improving access to our exceptional, multi-disciplinary care and services, including clinical trials that often lead to important treatment advances.”  

The Naples care team—a nurse navigator and nurse practitioner—provides patients with services such as appointment and telehealth visit scheduling and screening and coordination for clinical trial participation, as well as referral management for referring physicians. The team offers access to supportive care, survivorship classes and workshops. Sylvester will also expand its community outreach and engagement programs in Naples, including cancer screenings and education focused on early detection. 

Florida Senator Kathleen Passidomo, who represents district 28, is Florida’s senate president and has lived in Naples for more than 40 years, attended the opening ceremony. 

“Welcome to the family,” said Passidomo when speaking about Sylvester’s new office.

Holistic Cancer Care Access 

Frank J. Penedo, Ph.D., director of Cancer Survivorship and Supportive Care at Sylvester, said exceptional cancer care means caring for the whole patient—body and mind.  

Dr. Penedo says Sylvester’s presence in Naples will extend crucial care and support to the region.

“A cancer diagnosis and its treatment are very stressful experiences for many patients and their families, who face multiple and unique challenges throughout their cancer journey,” he explained. “Our Naples office will serve as a vital resource to Southwest Florida patients and provide supportive care resources ranging from stress management and support groups to educational programs and workshops that help manage lifestyle factors like nutrition and physical activity.” 

Survivorship services will also include providing comprehensive survivorship care plans and treatment summaries to assist patients with navigating their follow-up care, Penedo noted.   

“These supportive care and survivorship services are often limited, and the new Sylvester office will provide access to services addressing the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of cancer patients that are often critical for their recovery and long-term survival,” he said. 

Cancer Outreach to Florida’s West Coast 

Another way in which the Naples location will reduce cancer burden where people live is through Sylvester’s global Firefighter Cancer Initiative, which aims to understand, address and prevent firefighters’ known increased risk of developing and dying from cancer.   

Sylvester already works closely with the North Collier Fire Department on several research projects to understand and address the excess burden of cancer in the fire service, locally, according to Erin Kobetz Ph.D., M.P.H., associate director, community outreach and engagement at Sylvester and the John K. and Judy H. Schulte Senior Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. 

“The Naples Resource Center will enable us to extend this collaboration to include cancer support services and access to other important research opportunities. It will provide a place to gather, educate and brainstorm with Collier County first responders and other community members similarly concerned about cancer and committed to creating novel solutions for disease prevention, treatment and survivorship,” Dr. Kobetz said.  

Access to Cancer Cancer Changes Lives 

For metastatic uveal melanoma patient Lori Breyman, access to clinical trials has meant hope and survival.  

Breyman, 62, lost her eye to uveal/ocular melanoma in 2012. Two years later, Breyman’s cancer spread to her liver and lungs, and none of the FDA-approved medications worked to slow or stop the disease.  

A series of clinical trials—each offering new hope—have since extended and continue to prolong Breyman’s life. 

Close to Home 

Participating in clinical trials usually means physically being at a cancer center that offers the trials. Breyman traveled from her home in Florida to Columbia University in New York City to participate in clinical trials specifically for uveal melanoma, until this year.  

“The traveling is really hard on cancer patients and their families. I was struggling to make the trips from Naples to New York—though I probably made 150 of those trips,” Breyman said.  

Depending on the drug and clinical trial, Breyman would sometimes experience major side effects that made travel almost nearly impossible. Breyman’s physicians at Columbia referred her to Sylvester, where she would have access to the latest clinical trials in uveal melanoma and be under the care of Sylvester member Leonel F. Hernandez Aya, M.D., who specializes in ocular melanoma.  

Breyman says being close to quality care reduces her burden, improves quality of life and allows her to receive quality, compassionate care.   

“At Sylvester, I don’t feel like a number and the employees really care about you,” she said.  

There is no cure for metastatic uveal melanoma, but Breyman said she is fortunate to have access to the latest research through clinical trials.  

“Most people with this disease have not made it as long as I have,” Breyman said. “I am thankful to Sylvester for all it has done for me.” 

Sylvester’s Naples office will be located in The Chamber Building, 2390 9th St. N. For more information, visit Sylvester.org/Naples or call 239-659-3999. 

Tags: Dr. Erin Kobetz, Dr. Frank Penedo, Dr. Stephen Nimer, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center