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Woman’s Cancer Association Celebrates 65th Anniversary

Charitable organization boasts rich history of supporting research, education and patient needs at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

 A group of pioneering women launched the non-profit organization in the 1950s and chartered it in 1959. The all-volunteer, non-profit organization is steadfast in its mission to support cancer research, education and patients’ needs. Throughout its 65-year history, WCA has proven to be an ardent supporter of Sylvester, a part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and South Florida’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, donating more than $15 million to date.

Those funds support the innovative research conducted by Sylvester’s renowned physician-scientists. Each year, a WCA committee evaluates proposals and awards research grants to help fund projects related to the cancers studied at the cancer center.

“It is an honor and privilege to present some of Sylvester’s most brilliant scientists with the seed funds they need to pursue novel ideas and make life-changing advancements in cancer care,” said WCA President Nora Tenney, who has been a WCA member since 1996 and is currently serving her second term as president. “We always look forward to presenting these grants at our Education Day luncheon and listening to the awardees talk about their research, what they’re striving to achieve and how our funding is helping them reach their goals.”

Five grants, totaling nearly $200,000, were presented at a May 16 luncheon at the Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove. Additional grants will be awarded this fall.

WCA members and the grant recipients present the check for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
WCA members and the grant recipients present the check supporting Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The 2024 WCA grant recipients include:

• Suzy Bianco, Ph.D., Sylvester researcher and affiliate professor in the Miller School’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, for her research, “Comprehensive Analysis of Unexplored Traits and Novel Genes Potentially Associated to Breast Cancer Susceptibility and Response to Therapy in South Florida Subethnic Hispanic Women”

Shria Kumar, M.D., member of the Cancer Control Program at Sylvester and assistant professor of clinical medicine in the Division of Digestive Health and Liver Diseases at the Miler School, for her research, “Understanding the Risk Factors for Early Onset Colorectal Cancer Using Cohort Data”

Brooke Crawford, M.D., division chief of Orthopaedic Oncology at Sylvester, for her research, “Improving Pathologic Fracture Risk Prediction with Select Biomarkers in Breast and Prostate Cancer Patients”

Additionally, the WCA continued its decades-long support of the Holtz Children’s Hospital Pediatric Palliative Care team with a grant of $10,000.

Each year, the WCA also awards a grant to a physician-researcher at Sylvester with funds from the accrued interest of the Pearl M. and Edwin L. Powell Woman’s Cancer Association Endowment Fund. Recipient Matthew Schlumbrecht, M.D., M.P.H., a Sylvester researcher and associate professor of gynecological oncology at the Miller School, will use the $32,347 grant to support his research, “Associations Between Vaginal Metagenomics and Endometrial Cancer in a Minority Population.”

While the hope is that WCA grant funding will lead to cancer treatments and cures, the organization continues to support cancer patients facing financial hardships. Through its Silver Lady Fund, WCA distributes $3,000 each month to patients referred by Sylvester social workers to help with transportation, food, housing or other expenses.

“Since 1962, we have been serving as the last resort for cancer patients,” said Gisele Armour, chair of the Silver Lady Fund. “Last year, we helped 155 oncology patients, and 90 the year before. Sadly, the need is only increasing.”

The Silver Lady Fund is supported primarily by proceeds from WCA’s annual Silver Angel Luncheon, while merchandise sales at the Bargain Box, WCA’s thrift store, fund the research grants. Additional money is raised through private donations and fundraising projects, such as holiday home tours, fashion shows, plant sales and other grassroots efforts.

“We would not be the world-renowned cancer center that we are today were it not for the tireless and generous support of the Woman’s Cancer Association,” said Stephen Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester, the Oscar de La Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and executive dean for research at the Miller School. “Together, we share a vision for a world without cancer. The funds they raise to support our scientists’ innovative research and novel treatments are helping bring us closer to realizing that dream, but until that day comes, we are grateful for all they do to support our patients in their cancer journey.”

Tags: Dr. Brooke Crawford, Dr. Matthew Schlumbrecht, Dr. Shria Kumar, Dr. Suzy Bianco, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Woman's Cancer Association