Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Sylvester Hosts 10th Annual Cancer Research Competition and Lecture

05.13.2009

The Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine hosted the tenth annual Zubrod Memorial Lecture and Cancer Research Poster Session on Friday, May 8, 2009. Bert O’Malley, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, was this year’s guest lecturer.

O’Malley and his laboratory team are interested in determining the fundamental mechanisms for regulation of eukaryotic gene expression. Their early work defined the “primary molecular endocrine pathway” by which steroid hormones act in target cells. His laboratory substantiated “initiation of transcription” as the rate-limited step at which nuclear receptors regulate gene expression and defined steroid hormone receptors as transcription factors.

On Friday, O’Malley spoke to an audience of more than 150 people about “Nuclear Receptor Coactivators: ‘Master Genes’ and Targets of Disease.” He said coactivators promised to be “one of the most important class of molecules in human disease.” O’Malley, who has published more than 600 papers, described the activation of the steroid receptor coactivator-3 (SRC3) molecule, and the transcription factors that phosphorylate that molecule. In explaining the importance of SRC3, O’Malley said it was a multi-tasker, a “master” growth-activator, which is often over-expressed in breast cancer.

This year, Sylvester’s Outstanding Cancer Research Award was given posthumously to William J. Harrington, Jr., M.D., who died unexpectedly in January. Harrington, who was co-leader of the Viral Oncology Program, was considered a world-renowned authority on viral-induced cancers, focusing his research on treating viral-related tumors that had proven resistant to conventional chemotherapy. He had recently received National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding to study the mechanism of azidothymidine (AZT) on patients in Brazil with the Epstein Barr virus. Glen Barber, Ph.D., co-leader of the Viral Oncology Program, remembered his colleague as someone who established unique international collaborations. Barber presented the award to Harrington’s brother, Thomas Harrington, M.D., assistant professor of clinical medicine, saying, “We can’t replace him, but we can continue his work.”

The annual lecture and poster competition are held in honor of Charles Gordon Zubrod , M.D., who worked at the University of Miami for 25 years, heading up what would become the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. W. Jarrard Goodwin, M.D., director of Sylvester, called the day of the annual lecture “arguably one of the most important days of the year” for the cancer center because of its importance in establishing tradition.

Charles Vogel, M.D., former Miller School faculty member, Diana Lopez, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology, and Kermit Carraway, Ph.D., professor of cell biology and anatomy, and biochemistry and molecular biology, each spoke about their memories of Zubrod’s work. His 14 years of work at the National Cancer Institute helped develop a chemotherapy research program and led to his renown as the “father of cancer chemotherapy” and a pioneer in clinical trials. Zubrod was known as a gentle man, the consummate professional who was also inspiring and, as Carraway said, “the kind of man you wanted leading a young cancer center.”

The awards in the poster competition were handed out in clinical research and basic science research categories. Kathleen Brookfield, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., teaching assistant in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, won first place in the clinical research category for “Survival Disparities Among African-Americans with Invasive Bladder Cancer.” In the basic science category, Hiroki Ishikawa, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow at Sylvester, took the top prize for “STING is an Endoplasmic Reticulum Adaptor that Facilitates Innate Immune Signaling.” Each of the first place winners received $300.

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