Team 620: Honoring Austen Prescott’s Memory
Fund and tumor tissue donation advance Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center pediatric brain cancer research.
Throughout Austen Prescott’s cancer journey, his parents, Catherine and Andrew Prescott, asked family and friends to pray for their son at 6:20 a.m. and 6:20 p.m each day, alluding to Austen’s June 20 birthday.
When it became clear that his young life would be cut short at age 18 because of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an extremely rare and highly aggressive brain tumor, the Miami family established a research fund to honor their son’s legacy.
Team 620 quickly became the most successful University of Miami ‘CaneFunder on record, raising $86,928 in just nine days to support DIPG/DMG research at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.
Support Team 620
Tumor Donation Supports Cancer Research
Confident that a cure is within reach, the Prescotts donated Austen’s tumor to Sylvester scientists. World-renowned Sylvester pediatric neuro-oncologists Antonio Iavarone, M.D., and Anna Lasorella, M.D., experts in glioblastoma and other aggressive brain tumors, are leading that research. They have been able to use the tumor tissue to replicate cancer cells and conduct drug screenings.
“Being able to study Austen’s tumor is a crucial step in moving potential treatments forward,” said Dr. Iavarone, deputy director of Sylvester and professor of neurological surgery and biochemistry and molecular biology at the Miller School. “By comparing the tumor from his biopsy to the tumor after it became resistant to treatment, we can get a better understanding of how tumors evolve.”
Dr. Iavarone says real progress depends on establishing a tumor bank with tissue from multiple patients. That would provide invaluable insight into the genomics of the tumors and the reasons they are resistant to certain drugs, allowing researchers to develop potential novel targets that can translate into clinical trials.
Bradley Gampel, M.D., M.S., the Sylvester pediatric and adolescent young adult neuro-oncologist who treated Austen, said Sylvester’s multidisciplinary, team-based approach will make that happen.
“We are all here with the same goal of trying to find more-effective and less-toxic solutions,” said Dr. Gampel, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Miller School. “That starts from our neurosurgeons obtaining tissue to our neuro-pathologists reading the tissue with the optimal molecular studies, to our neuro-oncologists working with the patients and families to find the best treatments for the family. These studies will ultimately go from bedside to bench and then back to the bedside, bringing, novel, personalized, multi-modality therapies for each specific tumor and patient-specific alterations.”
Working Toward a Cure
The Prescotts say they have faith in the neuro-oncology team at Sylvester. They’ve witnessed the strides these physician-researchers are making toward finding a cure for gliomas that have a median survival rate of nine to 11 months and impact 300 to 400 children each year in the United States.
“If somebody is diagnosed with DIPG and they live in South Florida, there is nowhere else to go,” said Andrew. “You want to be with the people who know more about it than anyone else and have seen more cases than anyone else in town, and that would certainly be Sylvester.”
Generous donations from Team 620, which was established with an initial gift of $50,000, fuel Sylvester’s work. Andrew and Catherine presented an additional gift of $10,000 on Give Miami Day last November, which was matched by a gift of $15,000. Through ongoing fundraising efforts, Team 620 has already more than doubled its fundraising goal for Dolphins Challenge Cancer (DCC) XIV, which takes place Feb. 24.
Generosity Propels Sylvester Research
The Prescotts hope that, through their philanthropy, Sylvester can continue to propel research, create clinical trials and lead researchers closer to a cure.
“We cannot be more grateful to this family,” said Dr. Lasorella, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Miller School. “When they were facing such a difficult time, the loss of their son, they chose to help other children and families by donating his brain tissue. Their selflessness is immeasurable.”
The family believes Austen would not have wanted it any other way.
“Even in his lowest moments, Austen found empathy for others,” said Catherine. “He often expressed how badly he felt for kids younger than him who had to endure the same disease. Austen always wanted them to have hope. Our hope is that through Team 620’s support, Sylvester’s incredible scientists will find effective treatments and, one day, a cure for these devastating brain tumors.”