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With a Focus on Advancing Cancer Treatments, Researchers With Baptist Health Cancer Care Focus on Trials Benefiting Patients

 

From a deep dive into genetic mutations to studies using novel therapies, physician-investigators at Miami Cancer Institute and Lynn Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health Cancer Care, are conducting important leading edge research to advance cancer care. Their hope is that today’s studies will lead to breakthroughs in prevention, diagnosis and treatment — and ultimately, cures for some of the most complex and difficult-to-treat cancers.

Patients with a variety of cancers, including pancreatic, lung, breast and brain cancer are enrolled in clinical trials at both Miami Cancer Institute and Lynn Cancer Institute. Conducting nearly 100 trials, the Institutes’ patient-centered and robust research is considered on par with the best in the nation. And with partnerships such as membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, patients may qualify for potentially promising new therapies that are not yet widely available.

“We are working with collaborators all over the globe to design and devise clinical trials that explore new protocols, continue to push drug development forward and provide innovative treatments,” said Manmeet Ahluwalia, M.D., deputy director, chief scientific officer and chief of solid tumor medical oncology, and Fernandez Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at Miami Cancer Institute.

Dr. Ahluwalia is the principal investigator for numerous trials and recently received a $3.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for his glioblastoma research with Pallavi Tiwari, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University. Together, they develop and evaluate image-based tools to determine the risk of cancer recurrence. The study is the largest of its kind and hopes to ensure that non-invasive decisions are as accurate as possible.

A small sampling of the breakthrough clinical trials available to Baptist Health Cancer Care patients includes:

  • A study looking at the usefulness of a high-dose radiotherapy known as stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) in treating oligometastatic breast or lung cancer; led by principal investigator Rupesh Kotecha, M.D.
  • Testing a type of immunotherapy called pembrolizumab in patients with Merkel cell carcinoma after they have had surgery; led by principal investigator Guilherme Rabinowits, M.D.
  • Incorporating chemoprevention into care for women diagnosed with abnormal cells in the breast that can become cancerous; led by principal investigator Ana Cristina Sandoval, M.D.
  • A study to determine the maximum tolerated dosage of a novel drug in patients with lymphoid, myeloid or plasma cell malignancies; led by principal investigator Guenther Koehne, M.D., Ph.D.
  • The use of Stereotactic MRI-guided Adaptive Radiation Therapy (SMART) for inoperable primary or metastatic carcinoma; led by principal investigator Michael Chuong, M.D.

Recognized as experts in their field, Miami Cancer Institute and Lynn Cancer Institute physician-researchers often participate in leading medical symposiums. For example, they made numerous presentations at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, in June, where some 40,000 oncology professionals from around the world gathered to learn about the latest cancer research.

They also presented their latest radiation oncology research at the 2022 American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, in October, and the neuro-oncology team spoke on their research at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuro-Oncology (SNO), held in November in Tampa.

“Our physician-investigators have been leading several high-profile and promising trials that offer alternative treatment options and hope to patients affected by neurological tumors,” Dr. Ahluwalia said at the SNO meeting.

The Institutes are is also at the forefront of the movement to ensure that research is diverse and inclusionary, which is extremely important for a better understanding of how cancer affects people of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. With the creation of the Center for Equity in Cancer Care and Research, Miami Cancer Institute is working to identify barriers to care and to increase participation in trials among underserved populations.