From the Director’s Desk

Paul Okunieff, M.D.

Year after year, the number of adults who smoke in the United States continues to decline, and according to the American Cancer Society, rates of lung cancer in men and women have begun to ebb as well.

But this frightening fact remains: Lung cancer continues to be the most deadly form of cancer we face, leading to one-quarter of all the cancer deaths in the United States each year. And the number of nonsmokers stricken with this devastating disease has begun to increase.

Last year, clinicians from the University of Florida Shands Cancer Center made bold strides to improve the quality of care we provide to lung cancer patients with the establishment of the UF Lung Cancer Center. Led by Frederic Kaye, M.D., experts across multiple disciplines, including oncology, radiation oncology, surgery and pulmonary medicine, have united to provide a comprehensive, streamlined approach to treating patients with lung cancer.

Our investigators and clinician-scientists are making discoveries that advance our ability to provide patients with more effective, targeted treatments, but also potentially detect the disease earlier in those patients most at risk. In May, UF Shands Cancer Center member David Reisman, M.D., Ph.D., published a study that shows when a protein commonly found in cells is absent or inactive, the likelihood is 10 times higher that a person will develop lung cancer when exposed to carcinogens, like cigarette smoke.

The discovery is valuable. With more work, we potentially will be able to screen people for the abnormal gene linked to this inactive protein. In this way, we will identify people at highest risk for lung cancer and gain a foothold to prevent the disease before it strikes.

As a final note, our efforts to end this disease have gotten a major boost through the extremely generous support of an anonymous donor who lost his wife to small cell lung cancer. With his support, our researchers will be able to delve more deeply into the fundamental causes of small cell lung cancer, with the aim of developing better treatments and helping patients live longer, happier lives.

This is a mission we have embarked upon together — doctors, scientists, patients and families. And together we are making great strides.

Paul Okunieff, M.D.

Director, UF Shands Cancer Center

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Summer 2011

From the Director’s Desk

Year after year, the number of adults who smoke in the United States continues to decline, and according to the American Cancer Society, rates of lung cancer in men and women have begun to ebb as well.

UF Lung Cancer Center unites experts for patient-focused care

Gary Love had been retired two years when he first noticed the strange, draining feeling in his head. He went to the doctor, thinking it was a sinus infection. It wasn’t.

UF researchers find quiet protein speaks loudly in fight against cancer

When a movie character says, “It’s too quiet,” that’s usually a sign something bad may happen.

Now, University of Florida researchers have discovered that when variations of a certain protein in our cells are too quiet, it may add to the risk that someone will develop lung cancer.

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