Paul Okunieff, M.D., is the Marshall E. Rinker Sr.
Foundation and David B. and Leighan R. Rinker chair and
serves as director of the UF Shands Cancer Center and chair
of the College of Medicine department of radiation oncology.

“Sometimes you have to balk at convention to cure cancer.”

Spoken by one of our outstanding physician scientists, Christpher Cogle, M.D., these words sum up our philosophy and ideals about the work we do everyday to not only fight cancer, but also to cure it.

As we enter 2012, one thing is readily apparent: We are making steady and significant progress toward this goal. We are finding better and more effective treatments and making promising discoveries in our labs that move us closer to a cure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 120,000 people are diagnosed each year with a blood cancer, such as leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome. About 55,000 people die from these diseases each year.

Our physician-scientists in the Hematologic Malignancies and Bone Marrow Transplantation Program are developing an arsenal of new weapons and revamping older treatments to help fi ght these devastating conditions.

One of the areas where Dr. Cogle and his colleagues are paying particularly close attention is the cancer cell’s microenvironment. They are using an agent called Oxi4503 to poison leukemia cells and destroy their food source: the blood vessels that cater them with oxygen and nutrients.

In our Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, John Wingard, M.D., and his team have built a program that not only provides the best care to 150 patients a year but also has been a key national player in moving the field of bone marrow transplantation forward. The programis one of about 20 in the United States that was selected to be a part of a National Institutes of Health clinical trials network. In the 11 years since the network was established, more than 24 trials have been conducted with 4,000 patients.

Our blood cancer experts are also working closely with physicians and scientists in other fi elds to solve a range of complex health problems. UF is one of five centers participating in a NIHfunded study looking at the use of stem cells to help repair damaged heart tissue, and our scientists are teaming with pediatricians to examine the use of umbilical cord cells to treat diabetes.

Dr. Cogle is right. Sometimes you do have to balk at convention. This year, we plan to do it everyday.

Paul Okunieff, M.D.
Director, UF Shands Cancer Center

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Winter 2012

Paul Okunieff, M.D

From the director’s desk

“Sometimes you have to balk at convention to cure cancer.”

The battle on blood cancers

Chris Cogle, M.D., and his pals are playing a game of hide and seek, trying to outwit their crafty competitors who know all the good places to hide.

UF’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit succeeding through research and team care

At 68, Patricia Beiter still ran three miles a day, biked and swam and had just earned her teaching degree. But a routine blood test revealed a problem. Beiter was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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