Three innovative research projects are raising new hope for cancer-fighting success, right here in Broward County.
Thanks to nearly $1 million in support from the Community Foundation of Broward, researchers are working on unique approaches to screen and connect a diverse group of patients to the best treatments or clinical trials to improve their chances of becoming cancer free. The goal is to make lifesaving treatments more readily available and close to home for all Broward cancer patients.
Community Foundation supporters received a firsthand update about the progress of these local cancer-fighting efforts at our recent “Food for Thought” – opportunities for Fundholders, Legacy Society members, professional advisors and others to share a meal and learn more about Broward’s big issues and the work of the Foundation.
During the Food for Thought hosted by the Community Foundation on May 18, Dr. Bernardo Fernandez of Baptist Health Medical Group led a panel discussion featuring the doctors and researchers directing the three local research projects supported by the Foundation.
“Up until maybe 10 years ago, the most important thing you could do once you were diagnosed with cancer was book a ticket to leave town. To go somewhere else to get cancer care,” said Dr. Fernandez, a former Community Foundation Board Member. “We want to take care of our patients in our community. … Close to home, with the love of their families, provides a better healing environment for our patients.”
The research projects, each receiving three-year Community Foundation grants that started in 2022, include:
- Broward Health, Early Detection of Gynecologic Cancers through Expanded Research Partnerships – This partnership between Broward Health and the University of Miami studies gynecological cancers specifically in women of color. The project, serving 100 women per year, is developing a painless screening tool for the early detection of gynecological cancers with the goal of saving lives by preventing the onset of later stage disease. "Potentially we can catch these cancers earlier, treat them earlier and start working on that ever-increasing mortality rate,” said Dr. Scott Jordan, of Broward Health.
- Florida International University Foundation, Individualized Treatments in Adults with Relapsed/Refractory Cancers – This project works with 12 patients each year who don’t respond to chemotherapy or have relapsed with all types of cancers where tumor tissue would be available for drug screening and genomic profiling. The participants are followed throughout the course of the study, creating a compendium of drug responses in individual patients, matching actionable mutations with selective targeted therapies and clinically applying individual treatment for refractory patients with no alternative options. “We want to be able to provide exactly the right drugs for the right patients,” said Diana Azzam, Ph.D., of FIU.
- Memorial Foundation, Memorial Cancer Institute/Florida Atlantic University Cancer Biospecimen Resources – This project aims to create a cancer biospecimen resource (tumor bank) for tumors diagnosed in patients. The study involves 50 adults per year receiving routine care at MCI, with a goal to enroll diverse participants. This will constitute an important research tool that allows finding new biomarkers and therapies for cancer. This will allow for new collaborations with other institutions for better cancer research and resources. “We are greatly appreciative of the funding we receive to do this,” said Gregg Fields, Ph.D., FAU.
By awarding multi-year grants to help launch these innovative, scalable projects, the Community Foundation enables researchers to start showing results so they can attract larger support and expand their efforts.
“The research is being done in Broward, for Broward residents,” said Community Foundation President/CEO Jennifer O’Flannery Anderson, Ph.D. “We looked at these research projects to make sure that we were using a lens of equity, diversity and inclusion so that the patients that were going through the process were representative of our entire community.”
The Community Foundation believes that every resident diagnosed with cancer should have the very best treatment and support, right here where they live. Since 2016, the Community Foundation and our Fundholders have invested more than $2 million in bolstering local cancer research, increasing accessibility to breakthrough clinical trials and enhancing support systems for Broward cancer patients.
The three research projects showcased at the Food for Thought are the latest examples of how local philanthropy is helping make lifesaving cancer breakthroughs more accessible in Broward. Kim Praitano – President/CEO of the cancer patient support organization, Gilda’s Club South Florida – called the panel discussion one of the best presentations on oncology research that she has seen.
“What I heard today was eye-opening about the possibility of what will exist in our future,” she said.
Contact the Community Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-761-9503.