University of Florida Health Cancer Center


The University of Florida Health Cancer Center boasts a membership of more than 300 researchers and clinicians from across the University of Florida and UF Health, the Southeast’s most comprehensive academic health center. It is the only NCI-designated cancer center at a public institution in Florida. The Cancer Center and its members are dedicated to providing leading-edge cancer care and conducting original research for the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

The mission of the University of Florida Health Cancer Center is to prevent, detect and ultimately cure cancer and address the unique challenges of the cancer burden faced by the population we serve by facilitating innovative, collaborative, transdisciplinary cancer research. The UF Health Cancer Center will achieve these goals through discovery and research innovations in cancer mechanisms, prevention, screening and treatment, while training the next generation of cancer scientists and leaders and engaging the communities and populations we serve.

Overview

Explore our strategic plan — a roadmap to achieve our organizational goals and fuel our mission’s success. The UF Health Cancer Center catchment area profile comprises 23 contiguous counties in North Florida, with 2.3 million people. Residents from the catchment area account for 77.1% of the patients seen at the UF Health Cancer Center, according to data from 2012-2018. The 23 counties are spread over a land area of 17,494 square miles, greater than the area of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut combined.

Research Programs


Cancer Control and Population Sciences

Serving the community at tabling event

The goal of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences (CCPS) Program is to reduce the cancer burden in the CA and beyond. The UF Health Cancer Center CA is characterized by disproportionately higher cancer incidence and mortality rates versus other regions in Florida. These disparities are evident in medically underserved populations, which include rural populations (16 out of 23 counties are rural), more than a quarter of racial/ethnic minority residents (26% URMs, 16% of which are Non-Hispanic Black and 10% Hispanic), and just under a quarter of older adults age ≥65 years (23% in the CA versus 16.5% nationwide). These hallmarks of our CA inform program science, which is unified by 5 CCPS priorities: 1) social determinants and cancer disparities; 2) smoking and other tobacco use; 3) molecular and imaging markers for screening and early detection; 4) obesity, energy balance, and cancer; and 5) the intersection of cancer and aging

Specific Aims:

Aim 1.  Elucidate Molecular, Behavioral, Social, Environmental, and Other Risk Factors in Cancer Incidence and Mortality.

Aim 2. Develop and Evaluate Primary and Secondary Cancer Prevention Interventions.

Aim 3. Address the Unique Needs of Cancer Survivors.

Meet the CCPS Program Members

Program Leaders

Dejana Braithwaite, PhD, MSc
Department: MD-SURGERY-SURGONC-BMSE

Dejana Braithwaite, PhD, MSc

Professor And Division Chief, Population Health Sciences; Associate Director For Population Sciences, UF Health Cancer Center
Phone: (352) 294-5822
Stephanie Staras
Department: MD-HOBI-GENERAL

Stephanie Staras Ph.D.

Associate Chair Of Faculty Development And Associate Professor
Phone: (352) 294-8299

Immuno-Oncology & Microbiome

Lamba

The scientific mission of the Immuno-Oncology & Microbiome program is to improve cancer outcomes through innovative therapeutic research on microbiome-immunotherapy interactions influencing epithelial and immune cell function, engaging clinicians and basic scientists to partner on innovative IITs.  The program develops and translates immunotherapy modalities, such RNA based vaccines, adoptive cellular therapies, genetically modified T cells, and microbiome-based therapy into first-in-human studies. The Comparative Oncology Initiative has allowed IOM investigators to validate new technologies in pet dog trials while a cadre of clinical trialists move these and other UF findings into human application. Through the I2T3, structured processes have been developed for translation of basic concepts into human studies. IOM thus advances preclinical-through-clinical evaluation of novel patient-specific therapies to address priority cancers of the CA engaging COE and members of the CAB in review and design of clinical trials.

Aim 1 Elucidate Principles of Cancer Immunobiology Relevant to Developing or Improving Immuno-Oncology Therapeutics

  • Identify and validate immunotherapeutic targets
  • Define mechanisms of Immune/stem/tumor cell engagement within the microenvironment
  • Develop therapeutic modalities to augment anti-tumor immunity

Aim 2 Define Microbiome Contribution to Cancer Development, Therapeutics and Immunoactivity

  • Investigate how microbiome-associated metabolites impact anti-tumor immunity
  • Explore how the microbiome modulates carcinogenesis
  • Study how microorganisms affect therapeutic response through drug metabolism

Aim 3 Translate Scientific Discoveries into Early-Phase Clinical Trials

Engaging members in all 4 UFHCC programs through:

  •  Disease Group Mini-Retreats
  • Program Meetings
  • The IIT Think Tank (i2T3)

Meet the Program Members

Program Leaders

Christian Jobin
Department: MD-GASTROENTEROLOGY

Christian Jobin Ph.D.

Professor Of Medicine; Principal Investigator
Phone: (352) 294-5148
Elias Sayour
Department: MD-NEUROLOGICAL SURGERY

Elias Sayour MD, PhD

Stop Children's Cancer/Bonnie R. Freeman Professor For Pediatric Oncology Research; Assistant Dean
Phone: (352) 273-9000

Mechanisms of Oncogenesis

woman putting liquid into test tube

The mission of the Mechanisms of Oncogenesis (MOO) program at the University of Florida Health Cancer Center is to understand how normal cells undergo complex changes leading to cancer. The scientific objectives of the MOO program are to elucidate the deregulated genetic and epigenetic events that drive tumor initiation and progression and develop new cancer targeting strategies. The research aims focus on identifying and characterizing genetic and epigenetic alterations, elucidating the role of noncoding RNAs in cancer, studying oncogenic mechanisms of DNA tumor viruses, and translating MOO discovery to novel therapeutic approaches.

Specific Aims

Aim 1. Elucidate the Role of Genetic and Epigenetic Alterations in Cancer.

Aim 2. Define the Role of Regulatory microRNAs and long noncoding RNAs in Oncogenesis.

Aim 3. Translate MOO Discoveries into Novel Therapeutic Approaches.

Meet the Program Members

Program Leaders

Lizi Wu
Department: Molecular Genetics & Microbiology

Lizi Wu

Professor
Phone: (352) 273-8205
Zhijian Qian
Department: MD-HEMATOLOGY/ONCOLOGY

Zhijian Qian Ph.D.

Professor, Pierre Chagnon Professor Of Cancer Research
Phone: (352) 294-8984

Cancer Targeting & Therapeutics

Target Therapeutics

The overarching objectives of the Cancer Targeting and Therapeutics (CTT) Program are to accelerate discovery, development and clinical translation of targeted small molecule and biotherapies. This research is done by engaging key cancer pathways, identifying and developing novel biomarkers, assays and methods for rapid agent selection and clinical translation as part of precision oncology approaches, which will engage members of all 4 UFHCC programs. This will be implemented by disease group focused mini retreats, program meetings, and IIT Think Tank (i2T3) mediated structured facilitation of the translation discoveries ranging from high throughput screening initiatives for identification of new therapies for effective and efficient translation into clinical trials. In this way, translation of CTT discoveries is systematically facilitated across all programs. Candidate discoveries for clinical development are evaluated by the Associate Directors (AD) for Translation & Innovation in collaboration with research program leaders for Basic, Population, and Clinical Research. Concept to trial development is facilitated using i2T3 resources and CRO’s which includes relevant stakeholders (e.g., researchers, center leadership, Citizen Scientists), statistical expertise (BCB-SR), representative populations (COE and PED), trainees (CRTEC), and key regulatory experience (e.g., FDA IND/IDE application).

Aim 1. Discover and Develop Targeted Therapeutics Engaging Key Cancer Pathways. CTT members discover antineoplastic properties of natural and synthetic products, identify new “druggable” targets by integrating high throughput screening approaches with a variety of genetic, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomic approaches to develop, refine, or combine compounds that interact with key cancer pathways to address CA priority cancers.

Aim 2. Identify and Develop Novel Biomarkers, Assays, Materials, and Methods to Improve Therapeutic Outcomes. CTT members develop, characterize, and validate multi-omics driven prognostic and/or predictive biomarkers relevant to improving outcomes in cancer patients. Development of novel tools and assays,  microfluidics devices and both classical and novel spatial-omics approaches provide opportunities to impact patient care or design therapeutic strategies to advance precision oncology. Research being conducted maintains a goal of improving the impact of personalized therapies for patients.

Aim 3. Apply Novel Concepts for Improvement of Cancer Therapy through Translation. Engaging members in all 4 UFHCC programs through disease group mini retreats, program meetings, and the i2T3, discoveries ranging from screening interventions to new therapies are effectively and efficiently translated into clinical trials.

Meet the Program Members

Program Leaders

Jatinder Lamba
Department: Pharmacotherapy & Translational Research

Jatinder Lamba Ph.D., M.Sc.

Associate Dean For Research And Graduate Education; Professor And The Frank A. Duckworth Eminent Scholar Chair
Phone: (352) 273-6425
Timothy P Spicer
Department: SR-MM-SPICER LAB

Timothy P Spicer Ph.D.

Senior Scientific Director, Department Of Molecular Medicine
Phone: (561) 228-2150

Cancer Center FAQs

Research Services

How does Research Services Support Cancer Center Members?

  • Answer: The Research Services Team manages the UF Health Cancer Center’s pilot and exploratory study and bridge grant programs. They provide administrative support to the development of RFAs, intake of applications, peer review, and award setup for these projects. Additionally, the team can provide experienced support for budget development and proposal submissions.

Research Development

How does Research Development support cancer researchers?

  • Answer: The Research Development Team of the UF Health Cancer Center provides skilled support for researchers in all aspects of research project and publication development. The team has an extensive background in research and oncology clinical studies, giving it a unique skillset to review and edit grant proposals and publications.
  • Our Research Development team has also curated a library of templates, guiding documents and boilerplate statements for investigators to use in preparation of extramural grant submissions. It also maintains a listing of cancer-relevant funding opportunities and distributes updates via the weekly Opportunity email newsletter. Subscribe to Opportunity.

Shared Resources

How do Shared Resource reimbursement work?

  • ICBR Payment should be made by providing a chartfield to the ICBR lab. Credit Card and PCard payments are not captured on the reports used to calculate reimbursements. Once made reimbursements are processed on a monthly basis to qualifying full members (see membership policy for eligibility requirements).

Which UFHCC supported Shared Resources are reimbursed?

  • Answer: Flow Cytometry and Confocal Microscopy and Next Generation Sequencing at 20% reimbursement. Biostatistics and Computational Biology is at no charge for initial consultation for proposal development.

How much of a reimbursement is given from the cancer center on supported SRs?

  • Answer:20%

Clinical Research Office

How can the cancer center’s clinical research office support my research interests?

  • Answer: The Clinical Research Office (CRO) operates in UFHCC to support its member-investigators in developing their own concepts into research protocols (Project Management Office), facilitating internal submissions and reviews to open trials that may be suitable for our patients, and offering a navigation tool that can be used to refer patients to appropriate trials in real time (Research Navigator).  The Cancer Center also has a grants team that can help prepare and submit grants to fund research proposals (Research Development). Once a study is open, the cancer center has project management, coordination, regulatory, and compliance services that can be accessed for applicable trials.  The CRO also has a dedicated research navigator to help guide investigators.  Additionally, the Clinical Research Office offers an extensive library of training to new investigators to help support their success as Principal Investigators. Contact Julie Thomas, Assistant Director Of Talent Development, to learn more.

Who should be contacted as soon as a PI becomes aware of a trial opportunity?

Can a PI request or provide a protocol to anyone outside of UF prior to alerting PAC?

  • Answer: No

Can a PI sign a Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement (CDA) or other documents unless requested by the PAC team?

  • Answer: No

Should a PI agree to participate in a study, even informally, with a sponsor prior to contacting the PAC team?

  • Answer: No.

Contact Information

UFHCC Membership Questions

Carlos D Diaz
Department: HA-UFHCC RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT

Carlos D Diaz

Membership Coordinator
Phone: (352) 273-6852

Research Program Meetings & Working Group Meetings

Carey Wardlow
Department: HA-UFHCC RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT

Carey Wardlow

Research Programs Coordinator
Phone: (352) 294-8893

Clinical Research Office Assistance

Erin H Monari
Department: HA-UFHCC EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP

Erin H Monari PhD, CCRP

Administrative Director Of Clinical Research
Phone: (352) 273-8128

Communications

Leah Buletti
Department: HA-HSC NEWS / COMMUNICATIONS

Leah Buletti

AST DIR, Communications
Phone: (352) 265-9429