Tag Archive | "miller school of medicine"

Researcher Fights Cancer in the Lab and on the Run

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Researcher Fights Cancer in the Lab and on the Run

Special to UM News

Pierre-Jacques Hamard

Pierre-Jacques Hamard

“Being a cancer researcher is not only a job, it’s also a commitment to patients and the community,” says Pierre-Jacques Hamard, Ph.D., an associate scientist in the laboratory of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D. “That is why I am doing the 5k run at this year’s Dolphins Cancer Challenge.”

On a regular day in the lab, Hamard is studying the mechanisms driving leukemias, which are blood cancers. He’s particularly interested in a gene called PRMT5, what role it plays under normal conditions, and what it does in cancer cells. Eventually, he and his colleagues want to use PRMT5 as a target for new precision therapies because the gene has been shown to be over-expressed in a number of cancers. “The idea is, if we inhibit PRMT5 or the resulting protein with a small molecule, perhaps we can kill the cancer cells that depend on that gene to function,” he said.

The laboratory Hamard works in collaborates with a number of biotech companies to identify compounds that target this protein. “We already have small molecules that we can test in the lab on different systems and we have preliminary data showing that these compounds can slow down the proliferation of cancer cells,” he said. “Obviously, this is very preliminary and we need to confirm our findings in different systems, but it is very encouraging.”

Hamard is a co-author of a 2015 scientific paper that described the role of PRMT5 in normal, non-cancerous cells. “We found that PRMT5 is a very important gene for blood production in the body,” he said. “The question now is how can we treat leukemia patients without affecting the role PRMT5 plays in normal blood production?” Since PRMT5 is over-expressed in leukemia, scientists believe that cancer cells could be more dependent on this gene than normal cells, which might render them more sensitive to PRMT5 inhibitors, offering the clinicians a therapeutic window for targeting PRMT5.

This kind of research taking place at Sylvester is possible partly because of the funds received from the DCC. “I’m doing what I’m doing because of the patients and I want to discover new and better cures and therapies,” said Hamard, who also rode in last year’s DCC. “I love to show people that even we scientists, who have dedicated our lives to research, are also involved in events like the DCC. We are not only ‘lab rats;’ we are also passionate community members and we want to tackle cancer once and for all.”

To register for the DCC, which will take place on Saturday, February 20, please visit TeamHurricanes.org.

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Senate Taps Two Faculty for Top Honors

Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 3, 2015) — Two of the Miller School’s most esteemed practitioners — Laurence R. Sands, M.D., M.B.A., a renowned colorectal surgeon at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Eugene R. Schiff, M.D., one of the world’s leading authorities on liver diseases — have been unanimously selected by the Faculty Senate to receive two of its most prestigious awards, the Outstanding Teaching Award and the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award.

Among the University’s highest honors, the awards will be presented along with two previously announced awards at the 2016 Faculty Senate Awards Ceremony on Monday, April 11.

Laurence R. Sands

Laurence R. Sands

 Sands, professor of clinical surgery and chief of the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, was selected as this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award for his distinguished record and commitment to providing students with the highest quality education and for inspiring them to strive for success.

A leader in the use of minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery for colon cancer, Sands is involved in every element of surgical education for medical students and post-graduate trainees and is known for using his energy and talent to provide students with the best education at every opportunity. For example, in response to a major concern of residents and students about the balance of clinical service and educational opportunities, he reorganized clinical/surgical rotations to increase educational opportunities.

Demonstrating their gratitude for his inspiration and dedication to their education, the Miller School’s 2011 graduating class selected Sands for the 2010 George Paff Teaching Award.

A renowned gastroenterologist and hepatologist , Schiff, the director of the Schiff Center for Liver Diseases and Leonard Miller Professor of Medicine, will be honored at the April ceremony for his outstanding scholarly achievements. He will also present a short lecture on his research.

For decades, Schiff has led the University’s clinical research aimed at developing improved treatments and cures for hepatitis B, C and D, cirrhosis, and the entire spectrum of liver and biliary tract disorders.

Eugene R. Schiff

Eugene R. Schiff

In 2011, he became the first holder of the Dr. Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid Chair in the Schiff Center for Liver Diseases, the successor to the informal Center for Liver Diseases he and his late father, Leon, established in 1982.

Co-editor of the Eleventh Edition of Schiff’s Diseases of the Liver, Schiff has authored and co-authored more than 400 articles, books, and book chapters concerning liver diseases and related topics. He is a former president of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (his father was the first president), past chairman of the Biliary Section of the American Gastroenterological Association and past governor of the American College of Physicians for the state of Florida, a post he held for four years. He was a member of the Gastroenterology Subspecialty Board of the American Board of Internal Medicine and former Chair of the FDA Advisory Committee on gastrointestinal drugs. He is also the recipient of numerous honors and awards.

The Faculty Senate previously voted to honor School of Law Professor Richard L. Williamson with its James W. McLamore Outstanding Service Award and, for the first time, to bestow a Special Faculty Senate Award posthumously, honoring the life and work of Eckhard Podack, a distinguished cancer researcher and educator at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center who passed away October 8.

All members of the University community are invited to attend the awards ceremony, which will begin at 5 p.m. at Storer Auditorium at the School of Business Administration, and will be followed by a reception.

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Alumnus Appointed Dean of the Graduate School

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Alumnus Appointed Dean of the Graduate School

UM News

Prado photo

Guillermo “Willy” Prado

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 1, 2016)—The University of Miami has appointed UM alumnus Guillermo “Willy” Prado, the Leonard M. Miller Professor of Public Health Sciences and the director of the Division of Prevention Science and Community Health at the Miller School of Medicine, as the new dean of the Graduate School, effective immediately.

“Dr. Prado is well positioned to raise the Graduate School at UM to a new level of excellence, thanks to his passion as a researcher and educator,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc.

As dean of the Graduate School, Prado will work in partnership with the deans of the schools and colleges to support and develop strategies for attracting the next generation of scientists and researchers to graduate education at the University of Miami.

He will specifically manage the process of external program reviews and new program proposals, oversee the selection process for University of Miami graduate fellowships, chair the Graduate Council meetings, and meet regularly with graduate program directors, among other duties.

“This appointment is particularly meaningful to me because the University of Miami has been my academic home for 15 years, inclusive of my graduate training,” said Prado, who earned his Ph.D. in epidemiology and public health in 2005 and his Master of Science in statistics in 2000. “My plan is to work collaboratively with University leadership, graduate program directors, and the rest of the University community to continue to increase the quality of graduate education for our students.”

Prado joined the UM faculty in 2007. In the areas of research, he has served as principal investigator of approximately $10 million of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. He also has served in the roles of mentor and co-investigator of approximately $60 million of NIH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funding, including a leadership role on two NIH-funded center grants.

His research has appeared in more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, including The Journal of the American Medical Association, Pediatrics, American Journal of Public Health, and American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

During his tenure, Prado has led the development of the Ph.D. program in Prevention Science and Community Health, as well as redesigned the epidemiology doctoral program. Having taught more than 10 graduate courses in prevention science, epidemiology, and biostatistics at UM, Prado has mentored many junior faculty, post-doctoral students, and graduate students.

As chief of the Division of Prevention Science and Community Health since 2013, Prado has overseen a research program endowment of $375,000. Before that, he led the Ph.D. in Epidemiology Doctoral Program and served as acting chief of the Division of Epidemiology.

John L. Bixby, vice provost for research and professor of pharmacology and neurological surgery, chaired the search committee for the Graduate School dean and describes Prado as the “best of the best.” Noting that Prado will play a key role in UM’s progress in education and research, Bixby said, “Even among a number of highly impressive applicants who interacted with the Search Committee, Willy’s personality, accomplishments, and insight stood out. I am personally delighted that he will be our next dean.”

“Willy is an extraordinarily bright, dedicated public health researcher whose enthusiasm for his work is infectious,” said José Szapocznik, chairman of the Department of Public Health Sciences, who recruited Prado to the faculty after he completed his doctoral degree. “His work in prevention science has made him a superstar at UM and in the national scientific community.”

Prado replaces M. Brian Blake, who was named provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at Drexel University last spring. In the interim, Angel Kaifer, professor of chemistry and senior associate dean for research and graduate education in the UM College of Arts and Sciences, served as dean.

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Breast Cancer Researcher Ready to Ride in DCC

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Breast Cancer Researcher Ready to Ride in DCC

Marc E. Lippman

Marc E. Lippman

Special to UM News

Marc E. Lippman, M.D., is looking forward to riding in the Dolphins Cancer Challenge (DCC), on Saturday, February 20, at Sun Life Stadium. As one of the nation’s leading breast cancer researchers, Lippman understands the importance of raising funds for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“We are studying the factors in a woman’s life that can lead to metastatic breast cancer and its recurrence,” says Lippman, who is Sylvester’s deputy director, and the Miller Professor of Medicine at the Miller School. “Many people don’t realize that more women die of breast cancer after a five-year remission than during those first years after treatment,” he says. “That’s because the cancer cells can hide from the body’s immune system for many years, until depression, obesity, or other conditions affect a woman’s health.”

Metastatic breast cancer is the most difficult form of breast cancer to treat with the highest morbidity rates, adds Lippman, who leads a team of physician-scientists at Sylvester who are probing the connections among breast cancer tumors, inflammation, and the health of the body’s immune system.

“We have found similar profiles of cytokines, proteins released by the immune system, in women with obesity, depression, and breast cancer,” he says. “That’s an important finding, because most forms of metastatic disease recur months or years after the original diagnosis and initial treatments, and are likely increased by these inflammatory cytokines. Now, we are partnering with other Miller School departments to launch a major clinical trial for breast cancer patients with depression to see if we can reduce the likelihood of recurrence.

An active cyclist who has participated regularly in the annual DCC fundraising campaign, Lippman urges University of Miami faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends, and family members to take part in DCC VI, which includes a 5K walk and run and the option of participating as a virtual rider. “You can help our Sylvester researchers save lives by advancing our understanding of breast cancer,” he says. “I invite you to DCC with me.”

To learn more, please visit Dolphins Cancer Challenge.




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Sylvester Nobel Laureate Elected to Academy of Inventors

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Sylvester Nobel Laureate Elected to Academy of Inventors

Special to UM News

SchallySylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center pathologist Andrew V. Schally, whose groundbreaking research into the endocrine system was recognized with a 1977 Nobel Prize, was recently elected a Fellow in the National Academy of Inventors.

“While this is a great honor, it is even more gratifying to note that my 40-plus patents have provided millions of dollars in royalties to public and academic institutions committed to medical research,” said Schally, who is the Distinguished Leonard M. Miller Professor of Pathology and Professor of Hematology/Oncology, and International Medicine Institute Research Scientist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and Distinguished Medical Research Scientist and Head of The Endocrine, Polypeptide and Cancer Institute, Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Miami.

Schally was one of 168 new Fellows named to the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), whose 582 members represent more than 190 prestigious research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutions. He will be inducted on April 15, 2016, at NAI’s fifth annual conference at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va. Fellows will be presented with a special trophy, medal and rosette pin in honor of their outstanding accomplishments.

“Dr. Schally has had an extremely distinguished career spanning many decades,” said Richard J. Cote, M.D., Professor and Joseph R. Coulter Chair of the Department of Pathology, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, Chief of Pathology at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and Director of The Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute at the University of Miami (BioNIUM). “His seminal work on growth and hypothalamic hormones has now evolved into important work with potential applications for cancer and other diseases. Sylvester and the Department of Pathology are very fortunate to have Dr. Schally as an important continuing contributor to our scientific endeavors. His election to the National Academy of Inventors highlights his many original contributions.”

In 1977, Schally was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in proving the existence of several hypothalamic hormones. His discoveries included thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) and somatostatin, a growth hormone-inhibiting hormone (GHIH). Schally also produced one of the first commercially available LHRH antagonists, cetrorelix, a drug now in wide use for in vitro fertilization around the world.

“After studying growth hormones for 20 years, I started working on medical applications, such as treatments for prostate, breast and ovarian cancers,” said Schally. In the early 1980s he developed a therapy – still in use today – for men with advanced hormone-dependent prostate cancer based on LHRH agonists. He also found that cetrorelix had a beneficial effect on men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous enlarged prostate gland.

Schally and Norman L. Block, M.D., a Sylvester urologic oncologist and professor of oncology, pathology and urology at the Miller School, are working with Joshua Hare, M.D., the Louis Lemberg Professor of Medicine and Director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute (ISCI), to study how growth hormones can accelerate healing after a heart attack, and contribute to other stem cell therapy strategies. “We are also studying how hormone agonists may help stimulate the pancreatic islet cells that produce insulin,” Schally said.

Schally also assists and advises clinicians in the implementation of therapeutic methods that he developed for treatment of multiple cancers.

In addition to his recent election to NAI, Schally was named an Inaugural Fellow of the AACR Academy (American Association for Cancer Research) for his contributions to cancer therapy and named a “Legend in Urology” by the Canadian Urological Association and the Canadian Journal of Urology.

The National Academy of Inventors is a 501©(3) non-profit member organization founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.

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