A world-class cancer center for Miami

After spending nearly 20 years at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, I was swayed to move to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center by the incredible opportunity to help Miami and South Florida build a world-class cancer center in its midst, one that could serve the 6 million people who live here.

Since I arrived, we have recruited more than 40 physicians and scientists to bolster our clinical care and to conduct potentially lifesaving clinical and laboratory research.

This growth was made possible by the support of University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala, Miller School of Medicine Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., and many others.

I have also been working with the directors of the other two main cancer centers in Florida — the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and University of Florida Health in Gainesville and Jacksonville — to develop a collaborative approach to cancer research and clinical care that will enable Florida to compete with elite cancer centers elsewhere in the U.S.

We are thankful for Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature for sharing this vision, which has led to an increase in state funding in recent years and allowed our centers to recruit world-class clinicians and scientists from outside Florida.

Florida has the second-highest number of cancer cases in the nation, yet our state has only one cancer center with the distinguished National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation. Such a designation would mean greater access to cutting-edge cancer treatments, clinical trials and research to develop more effective therapies in order to reduce the burden of cancer in our community.

Florida is poised to gain two more NCI-designated cancer centers, but dedicated state support is essential to this mission.

Gov. Scott recently proposed raising support for cancer research to $80 million in the Fiscal Year 2014-15 state budget. HB 5203 is a bold move that will improve the quality of life for Florida’s residents and the economic strength of the state overall.

Across the nation, a state with the population size of Florida should have three NCI-designated cancer centers, but our state only has one. This deficiency is a lost opportunity for the state, not only to give Floridians world-class cancer care in their back yard, but also to attract additional federal funding, leverage research partnerships and recruit top researchers.

In South Florida, the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center has achieved cure rates for several common cancers that now far surpass national averages, and we are poised to attain the state’s second NCI designation.

Just in this region alone, it is estimated that an NCI designation for Sylvester would create $1.2 billion in statewide economic impact by 2016 and generate more than 2,000 new high-wage jobs.

Such a scenario attracts the top minds in this field, luring even more investments.

The past few years have seen more breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer than ever before.

This accelerating pace has led to significant improvements in the survival of patients with a variety of cancers. For instance, a decade ago, those with multiple myeloma, a disease I treat as a hematologist, had an average survival of only three to four years; now patients survive seven to 10 years.

These successes are due to efforts of many people, but prime among them are the physicians and scientists who work at academic cancer centers, and push the research agenda forward.

Supporting HB 5203, which funds cancer care and research, has a dollar value, but in so many ways it is immeasurable.

What this bill proposes is an investment well worth making, and we encourage the Florida Legislature’s support.

Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., is director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  • In My Opinion

    Pitts: Don’t look for the ‘perfect’ victim

    You’ve probably never heard of Claudette Colvin. And yet, had history twisted in a slightly different direction, she might loom as large in American memory as Rosa Parks does now while Parks herself would be a little-remembered seamstress.



    Read to children, change a life

    After reading to my students, we’d walk around the library and I’d tell them: ‘Look at all of these books; soon you’ll be able to read every single one. And if you can read every book here, you can learn anything you ever want to learn. And that’s what we are going to do together,’” said Alvin Blake, the former vice mayor for the City of North Bay Village.



    We must do more to make our correctional facilities safer

    The death of Darren Rainey has heightened our awareness that we must do more to make our facilities safer. That’s why last week we announced system-wide reforms that focus on the mental-health needs of the inmates in our facilities, operating in a more transparent manner, increasing accountability and partnering with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to streamline investigations.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category