UF Health-led event draws top experts, focuses on new brain tumor treatments
By Michelle Koidin Jaffee
Top brain cancer experts from across the nation and beyond came together in Orlando at the invitation of University of Florida Health’s Duane
Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., and William A. Friedman, M.D., world leaders in the quest to significantly improve quality of life and long-term survival
for patients fighting malignant brain tumors.
More than 100 expert investigators and physician-scientists from major brain tumor research centers in the U.S., Canada and Germany convened for the inaugural ReMission Summit for Brain Tumors, a conference hosted by UF and UF Health that officially launched a groundbreaking endeavor to collaborate across institutions in the hunt for new treatments to turn deadly brain cancers into livable conditions.
The weekend conference kicked off with the announcement of a $12 million gift over 10 years from Orlando hotelier and philanthropist Harris Rosen, who lost his 26-year-old son Adam Michael Rosen to brain cancer in November, and culminated in small-group workshops designed to generate four new scientific papers exploring immunotherapy and precision-medicine techniques currently under development for both adult and pediatric brain cancer.
“We know that all of the science that’s going to be presented by the who’s who of the brain tumor world over this next weekend is fabulous, but we also know that each of us alone are not going to be able to solve this problem,” Friedman, co-director with Mitchell of the Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy, said in opening the scientific sessions. “Together, redefining the mission, we hope that within the next 10 years, we will be able to turn brain cancer into a chronic disease.”
The summit officially launched the new UF Health-led ReMission Alliance Against Brain Tumors, a network of neuro-oncology, tumor immunology
and genetics experts from top peer institutions as well as a community of vested collaborators and influencers affected by brain cancer. The alliance
will unite them in the pursuit of new lines of research and clinical trials.
Marking the significance of the occasion, among the conference’s attendees were David R. Nelson, M.D., interim senior vice president for health
affairs at UF and president of UF Health; Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., director of the UF Health Cancer Center; and Anita Zucker, a UF Board of Trustees member and chair of the ReMission Summit.
For several of the investigators and participants, fighting the devastating disease of brain cancer is deeply personal.
“I know firsthand how arduous, how long and trying the journey can be. I lost my husband, Jerry, 11 years ago this April,’’ Zucker said. “To me, dealing with that is one of the most difficult things in life for anyone when you have to deal with the loss of a precious member of your family.”
Among additional summit highlights were keynote addresses delivered by Gregory C. Simon, president of the Biden Cancer Initiative, and internationally renowned neuro-oncologist Roger Stupp, M.D., of Northwestern University, and the announcement of the $12 million gift from Harris Rosen and The Harris Rosen Foundation. The gift is the cornerstone of a $100 million fundraising commitment to support the ReMission Alliance.
Rosen, owner of the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel where the summit took place, spoke during a dinner of his son’s two-and-a-half-year battle against brain cancer. He said his gift was a direct result of the care and compassion his son received from UF Health neuro-oncologists.
The gift will support research at UF Health, contribute vital seed money for the ReMission Alliance and add significantly to the UF Health Cancer
Center’s growing resources to fight fatal diseases. The suite that houses the UF Health Neuromedicine practice at the UF Health Neuromedicine Hospital and the neuro-oncology laboratories within UF’s Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute will be named in honor of Adam Michael Rosen.
“Throughout the two and a half years, he fought gallantly every single day,” Rosen said of his son. “I know how extraordinarily proud he would be to
have his name on the clinic and the labs, but more importantly, I know how proud he would be to have his name on the lab …,” he paused, choked with emotion, “where the cure for cancer was found.”
Two workgroups focused on pediatric brain cancer and two on adult, and plans call for publishing scientific papers on the important advances
brought to light at the summit, which will reconvene annually over the next 10 years.