An essential component of the UF Health Cancer Center’s mission is conducting clinical research that directly impacts patients by delivering new and promising cancer treatments. The Cancer Center’s innovative clinical research, funded in part through the state of Florida, includes developing and implementing cancer clinical trials that bring opportunities for patients in Florida and beyond to access new cancer treatments. This leading-edge research ensures the Cancer Center provides patient care that meets the needs of the rural and diverse population it serves and contributes to advancing scientific progress for future patients.
Mansi Dalal, M.D., an assistant professor in the division of hematology and oncology in the department of pediatrics in the UF College of Medicine, is one of the clinical investigators at the Cancer Center who has dedicated her career to developing better treatments for some of our youngest patients with cancer, particularly those with leukemia and lymphoma.
After medical school, she completed her residency in pediatrics in Baltimore, Maryland. She then completed a fellowship in pediatric hematology and oncology at the University of Florida. Given her expertise and distinction, she was recruited after fellowship to join the UF faculty and UF Health Cancer Center.
Dalal’s clinical and research interests focus on determining the role of imbalances in epigenetics, the study of changes in patterns of gene expression, in relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She is also interested in improving care for patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, also known as bone marrow transplant. This is a procedure to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells.
“I am passionate about improving long-term outcomes in children, adolescents and young adults with cancers by decreasing relapses and decreasing therapy-related complications,” Dalal said. “I am particularly interested in improving outcomes in adolescents and young adults, who often face the most adverse long-term effects from our current therapies.”
Leukemia is one of the six priority cancers in the expansive region of north and central Florida primarily served by the UF Health Cancer Center. Mortality rates for blood cancers — which include leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma — are higher in this area than they are in the rest of the state and in the United States. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common childhood cancer. Despite improvements in cure rates, it continues to remain the most common cause of cancer-related death in children. Relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia remains difficult to cure with poor outcomes.
Dalal is developing novel epigenetic therapeutic strategies through laboratory testing and designing early-phase clinical trials to bring new treatments into the clinic for patients. She is also researching outcomes for adolescents and young adults in Florida using the UF integrated data repository of patients treated in the state. This tool allows her to capture patients who are treated on and off clinical trials. She is an active member of the Children’s Oncology Group, where she is working with the relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia committee and assessing outcomes in adolescents and young adult patients treated nationwide for relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Finally, she is an active member of the Florida Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant and Cell Therapy Consortium, which works to improve outcomes and bring new post-transplant therapy into the clinic.
“Our goal is to improve overall health outcomes of children and young adults with leukemia and lymphoma by developing novel therapeutic strategies through clinical trials that not only improve outcomes, but also decrease long-term side effects of chemotherapy.”Mansi Dalal, M.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Hematology and Oncology, University of Florida College of Medicine
Support from the state of Florida through the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Act (Fla. Stat. § 381.915) has been critical to the Cancer Center’s recruitment and retention of rising stars in cancer clinical research. Dalal is an example of a cancer physician and scientist who is developing and bringing forward new therapies for patients in Florida and beyond. The program was established to enhance the quality and competitiveness of cancer care in Florida, further a statewide biomedical research strategy, and capitalize on the educational opportunities. Through this program, the state provides funding to Florida cancer centers that have achieved designation from the National Cancer Institute and those working to achieve the designation.