Horowitz Solitary Fibrous Tumor Initiative Inspired by Patient’s, Physician’s Shared Passion

As an entrepreneur, Joel Horowitz channeled his passion and energy into building his business into one of the nation’s premier distributors of designer lighting fixtures. Now retired, he’s funneling that same vigor into supporting Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s physician-scientists in their quest to discover a cure for one of the rarest forms of cancer. His significant gift will establish the Horowitz Solitary Fibrous Tumor Initiative.

Sylvester medical oncologist Dr. Gina D’Amato and Joel Horowitz. Horowitz made a gift to establish the Horowitz Solitary Fibrous Tumor Initiative.
Sylvester medical oncologist Gina D’Amato, M.D. ’98, and Joel Horowitz

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System, is one of the leading sarcoma centers in the world. A cancer of the bone and soft tissue, sarcoma accounts for less than 2% of all cancers. There are 175 different types of sarcomas, making each subtype extremely rare. Solitary fibrous tumor (SFT) is among the rarest, impacting approximately one person per million each year. Horowitz is one of those people.

For the past two years, he has been receiving treatment at Sylvester under the care of Gina D’Amato, M.D. ’98, a sarcoma medical oncologist and assistant director of clinical research. Horowitz says he sees in Dr. D’Amato the same passion and determination that he possesses, and that’s why he is putting his faith and philanthropy behind her work.

“Dr. D’Amato has the desire, the energy and the time to make a statement for herself, for Sylvester and for sarcoma. And I want to be there to help her make that statement,” said Horowitz, who proudly volunteers through Sylvester’s Sarcoma Peer Mentorship Program, supporting fellow patients. “I want to help, hopefully, save my life and many other people’s lives. We are going to make a difference. That’s all there is to it.”

Grateful for Horowitz’s altruism, Dr. D’Amato believes the Horowitz Solitary Fibrous Tumor Initiative has the potential to permanently move the needle on how SFT is diagnosed, treated and, ultimately, cured.

“Traditional research funding through grants is highly competitive, especially for rare diseases, such as SFT,” she said. “Receiving a gift of this magnitude from Mr. Horowitz provides me and my colleagues with the financial resources to push past research barriers to significantly advance the understanding and treatment of SFT.”

Sylvester’s ‘Sarcoma Dream Team’

The Horowitz Solitary Fibrous Tumor Initiative will help fund research being conducted by what he refers to as Sylvester’s “Sarcoma Dream Team,” consisting of Dr. D’Amato; Jonathan Trent, M.D., Ph.D., associate director for clinical research and director of the Bone and Soft-Tissue Sarcoma Group at Sylvester; Duan Zhenfeng, M.D., a renowned expert in establishing cell lines; and Andrew Rosenberg, M.D., a prominent sarcoma pathologist who will assemble a bank of SFT tissue samples to study biomarkers.

“The scope of this project is huge,” said Dr. Trent. “Mr. Horowitz’s generous gift will allow us to create an SFT biobank and tumor registry with tissue samples from Sylvester patients, as well as those from other cancer centers around the world. This resource will allow our physician-scientists to establish novel SFT cell lines and study biomarkers as we look for clues into how these tumors work and gain insight on potential therapeutic targets using drug sensitivity testing.

“At the end of the day, we want to find better tolerated, more effective therapies for patients with solitary fibrous tumor and, hopefully, one day a cure.”

The Horowitz Solitary Fibrous Tumor Initiative helps advance Sylvester’s commitment to tackling the world’s rarest and most difficult-to-treat cancers. Sylvester is the only NCI-designated and nationally ranked cancer center in South Florida. For patients with rare cancers like SFT, an NCI-designated cancer center like Sylvester provides the added benefit of treatment by renowned specialists in their field who are leaders in cancer research and patient care.

“We are grateful to Mr. Horowitz for sharing our vision and supporting our physician-scientists in their tireless search for better treatment options and ultimately a cure for solitary fibrous tumors, and perhaps other types of sarcoma as well,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and executive dean for research at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “His generous gift will position us to take the global lead in sarcoma research.”

Tags: Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, Dr. Gina D'Amato, Dr. Jonathan Trent, Horowitz Solitary Fibrous Tumor Initiative, solitary fibrous tumor, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center