Generous Gift to Build Childhood Cancer Clinic at Sylvester
Pediatric oncologists at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System, are preparing to initiate a new era in treating children. Thanks to a generous donation from philanthropist businessman Alexander Daly, a dedicated clinical program for the youngest cancer patients in South Florida will soon unfold.
Daly, a University of Miami alumnus, has donated $2 million to build the “Alexander Daly Family Clinic for Childhood Cancer & Blood Disorders.” The facility will have its own entrance and be built into the courtyard of the Sylvester building on the Miller School of Medicine campus.
A father himself, Daly says he was motivated to make the donation toward this project because he was fascinated by the opportunity to make a difference. “It’s so easy to write a check and be done with it, but I want to make sure this is more.” Daly says he was impressed after talking to Julio Barredo, M.D., Toppel Family Professor of pediatric hematology-oncology and director of children’s cancer programs at Sylvester, and learning the challenges faced in treating children. Barredo says Daly’s gift, which helps fund the building and the programs within it, “will allow us to better coordinate the care for these patients, since we’ll be able to have nearly all the outpatient services under one roof.”
The space is being designed to handle patient visits more efficiently, providing areas for infusions and transfusions that are both private and age appropriate. As an outpatient clinic, Barredo says there is a great need to streamline processes. These children and their families often must spend hours in the clinic, yet doctors hope to reduce that time to minimize their exposure to infections.
The clinic will also be multi-disciplinary, so that children are not only seen by their oncologist, but also by doctors in other specialties that are participating in the care of that patient. Barredo, associate chair for basic research in the Department of Pediatrics, explains that cancer care in children can be complex and often requires the input from endocrinologists, radiologists, neurologists and others who will all work in the new facility.
“We are so grateful that Alexander Daly has given the children and families struggling with cancer who we care for a home of hope and a reason to believe further in a cure,” said Steven Lipshultz, M.D., professor and chair of pediatrics and associate executive dean for child health at the Miller School and chief of staff of the Holtz Children’s Hospital. “Although the successes of childhood cancer therapy are among the greatest accomplishments of pediatric medicine in recent decades, there is still so much more that needs to be done for these patients and their families. Our dedicated childhood cancer team, under the remarkable leadership of Dr. Barredo, makes what in the past would have been considered miracles happen daily in a compassionate, caring way. However, with this new magnificent comprehensive outpatient home for the treatment of childhood cancer and blood disorders, the implementation of future advances is likely to escalate exponentially. This will complement the inpatient home for our childhood cancer programs at the Holtz Children’s Hospital.”
The “Alexander Daly Family Clinic for Childhood Cancer & Blood Disorders” will also be a site for comprehensive care of pediatric bone marrow transplant patients, a multi-disciplinary pediatric neuro-oncology clinical program, a childhood cancer survivors’ clinical program and a multidisciplinary pediatric musculoskeletal oncology clinical program, among others. By placing this comprehensive care all under one roof, Barredo says Daly’s gift will create “better communication among cancer specialists and better outcomes for these young patients.”
A key arm of the master plan for pediatric oncology is to translate laboratory research into novel therapies for pediatric cancer patients. Sylvester has the only Pediatric Phase I clinical trials program in South Florida, and the goal is to foster more collaboration between Sylvester scientists and pediatric oncologists. With Daly’s gift, the cancer center will be able to develop more pediatric cancer therapies and trials. “We have already started to generate new clinical trials based on research performed here and at institutions from around the world,” says Barredo. “This is the kind of specialized clinical care that is only available at academic cancer centers. “We will be able to offer novel therapies to our patients here,” says Barredo, “so they don’t have to leave their home in South Florida to get specialized types of treatments.”
The intense focus on finding treatments for children is what caught Daly’s attention. He learned from Barredo that most of the drug development is aimed at adult patients. Development of clinical trials using novel molecular targeted drugs for pediatric cancer patients that bridge the research laboratory bench and the clinic, like those at Sylvester, will improve cure rates while minimizing the toxic effects of cancer treatment for children, adolescents and young adults. “When it’s a child,” said Daly, “these doctors are working to keep them alive and functional for a much longer period of time.”
Building the “Alexander Daly Family Clinic for Childhood Cancer & Blood Disorders” is another step forward for the cancer center. “Dr. Barredo has envisioned a state-of-the-art clinic and pediatric program that is second to none,” says Joseph D. Rosenblatt, M.D., professor of medicine and interim director of Sylvester. “Combined with Alex’s generosity and Dr. Barredo’s plans, we are further enhancing our ability and reputation as South Florida’s premiere comprehensive cancer center.”
As an engineer and businessman who has built several computer companies, Daly plans to collaborate with leading consumer electronics companies to create a stimulating environment that will be unique and welcoming for patients. He also understands the real challenges ahead and says even their minor successes will still have “a major impact because you’ve added multiple years of life and those people go on to make a difference.”
Barredo and Daly clearly share a common goal: creating a state-of-the-art clinic at Sylvester that provides the latest cancer therapies to children of South Florida so they don’t have to leave the area, and developing more effective and less toxic treatments for childhood cancers.
Barredo says Daly’s drive to excellence in his work “is very much in synch with where we intend to take this program.”
Both say the groundbreaking, set for late November, is just the beginning.