Keynote Speakers

Dr. Jonathan D. Licht, M.D.  

Titles: Professor, Department of Medicine — Hematology/Oncologylicht

Dr. Licht is the Director of the UF Health Cancer Center. His research focuses on aberrant gene regulation, specifically the role of abnormal function of histone methyl transferases and histone demethyalses in diseases such as multiple myeloma and in developing small molecule strategies to normalize gene regulation and treat disease.

Dietmar Siemann, Ph.D.

Associate Chair for Research, Department of Radiation Oncology
Co-Leader, Cancer Biology Concentration, Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences, University of Florida College of Medicine
Associate Director, Education and Training, University of Florida Health Cancer Center

The research conducted in Dr. Siemann’s laboratory emphasizes the pursuit of experimental approaches and treatment strategies that seek to enhance cancer patient care. He believes that preclinical investigations aimed at developing novel anticancer therapies will ultimately provide essential insights enabling the development of future clinical treatment regimen designed to improve cancer prognosis and survival.

Andrew Judge, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
University of Florida Department of Physical Therapy
UF College of Health and Health Professions

Dr. Judge’s research is focused on understanding the molecular signaling pathways leading to skeletal muscle atrophy caused by disuse (cast immobilization), disease (cancer and peripheral arterial disease), sepsis and aging. In addition, ongoing work in his lab seeks to understand the role that specific proteins play in regulating muscle regrowth following atrophying conditions.

Hendrik Luesch, Ph.D.

Debbie and Sylvia DeSantis Chair in Natural Products Drug Discovery and Development
Professor and Chair
Department of Medicinal Chemistry
UF College of Pharmacy

Dr. Luesch’s multidisciplinary research program at the interface of chemistry and biology combines classical natural products chemistry with high-throughput screening and chemical genomics. It involves most aspects of drug discovery ranging from the collection of promising marine organisms, bioassay development, NMR spectroscopic structure determination, total synthesis, mechanism-of-action studies, and pharmacology, up to the preclinical and clinical development of candidate molecules. His lab is producing a small but increasing pipeline of bioactive compounds that are at various developmental stages. He also uses functional genomics approaches to identify and characterize genes associated with disease processes, especially cancer.

Nancy P. Mendenhall, M.D.

Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology
Associate Chair, Department of Radiation Oncology
UF Health College of Medicine — Jacksonville
Medical Director, UF Health Proton Therapy Institute

Dr. Mendenhall has nearly 30 years of experience and specializes in the areas of breast cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, lymphomas and pediatric cancers. She also treats patients who have prostate cancer and other malignancies. Dr. Mendenhall is a leader in research, has extensive experience in cooperative group trials (COG) and has produced nearly 160 published works, including articles in such publications as American Journal of Clinical Oncology, Cancer, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. In addition, she has been named in several leading women’s magazines as one of the nation’s top doctors for women with cancer. Currently, Dr. Mendenhall is responsible for the day-to-day clinical operations of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.

Folakemi Odedina, Ph.D.

Pharmacotherapy and Translational Research
UF College of Pharmacy
Director of UF Health Cancer Center Cancer Health Disparities

Dr. Odedina’s research program focuses on the predictors of health disparities and cost-effective, community-based behavioral interventions to improve the health of Black men. She has directed more than 20 research projects, including: (1) the Florida A&M University Center for Minority Prostate Cancer Training and Research (CMPC), which comprises a trans-disciplinary team of clinical, behavioral and basic scientists; and (2) a landmark Department of Defense prostate cancer research project which accrued over 3,000 Black men in Florida.

Elias Sayour, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, and Pediatrics
UF College of Medicine
Principal Investigator of the RNA Engineering Laboratory,
Preston A. Wells, Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy and UF Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program

Dr. Sayour is currently an NIH funded investigator, a University of Florida Term Professor, and a board certified pediatrician and oncologist. He is working to develop lipid-nanoparticles to train the immune system to fight cancer, and has received many awards for his work including the U.S. Department of Defense Cancer Research Award, the American Brain Tumor Association Discovery Award, and Hannah’s Hereos St. Baldrick’s Scholar Award. Dr. Sayour has spearheaded new paradigm treatments currently being tested in canine (pet dog) patients with terminal brain cancer, and also serves as Principal Investigator/Study Chair on first-in human immunotherapy studies for children with aggressive brain cancers.

William B. Slayton, M.D.

Associate Professor and Division Chief
Pediatric Hematology/Oncology
UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital

“Dr. Bill” joined the division in 2002 with a focus on platelet disorders and leukemia. He currently chairs the Children’s Oncology Group clinical trial AALL0622, Improved Targeted Tyrosine Kinase therapy for Ph+ Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. His laboratory has interest in how normal and leukemic stem cell interact with the bone marrow microenvironment. Current projects are focused on developing better therapies for Ph+ Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Infant Leukemia.

Margaret Wallace, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
UF College of Medicine
Dr. Wallace’s laboratory’s long-term project is the molecular study of neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1), a common dominant condition characterized by localized overgrowth of neural crest tissues. This condition is caused by mutations in the NF1 tumor suppressor gene (germline and often somatic), a large complex gene whose protein is not well understood. Other work planned or underway involves understanding the protein-level result of various mutations, phenotype-genotype correlations (particularly in NF1 microdeletion cases), use of human tumor Schwann cell cultures (some of which we have immortalized) for xenograft testing of drug therapies, searching for epigenetic effects at the NF1 and other loci in tumors, and investigating the role of steroid hormones in NF1.