Florida First Lady Announces $100 Million Proposal for Florida Academic Cancer Center Alliance

By Patty Kim - December 08, 2021

Florida first lady Casey DeSantis has announced that Gov. Ron DeSantis will recommend $100 million for cancer research and care in his 2022-23 budget, which is an increase of $37 million over prior year funding. She and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo held a roundtable discussion Tuesday at Moffitt Cancer Center to share the news.

The money would support three Florida homegrown cancer centers: Moffitt, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami and the University of Florida Health Cancer Center. The three form the Florida Academic Cancer Center Alliance, which is focused on accelerating innovation in cancer research throughout the state.

"Florida offers some of the best cancer care and research in the nation, and I’m proud that we are proposing historic investments in our leading cancer centers."

- Florida first lady Casey DeSantis

“Florida offers some of the best cancer care and research in the nation, and I’m proud that we are proposing historic investments in our leading cancer centers,” said Casey DeSantis. “The governor and I are committed to helping every cancer patient that we can through innovative research and high-quality care. While we increase this important funding, I also urge Floridians to go through appropriate cancer screenings. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in our state and now is not the time to delay care. I was honored to join experts in the cancer field today to discuss the urgency of cancer screening and to hear about the incredible innovative solutions our institutes are putting forward.”

Headshot of Dr. Patrick Hwu, president and CEO of Moffitt
Dr. Patrick Hwu, President and CEO of Moffitt

Dr. Patrick Hwu, president and CEO of Moffitt; Center Director Dr. John Cleveland; Dr. Jennifer Permuth, vice chair of research in Gastrointestinal Oncology; and lung cancer oncologist Dr. Michael Shafique shared more about how this vital funding will make an impact.

“The funding announced today will greatly benefit our three homegrown Florida cancer centers — Moffitt, Sylvester and UF Health — enabling these institutions to recruit the best and brightest from around the globe. It will allow us to bring teams and grant dollars to Florida to better support cutting edge discoveries, research and patient care, and make progress in the prevention and cure of cancer,” said Hwu. “We can’t thank the governor and of course the first lady for all their support in the fight against cancer.”

Headshot of Center Director Dr. John Cleveland
Dr. John Cleveland, Center Director of Moffitt

This kind of support is needed to perform cutting edge research and eventually find cures, said Cleveland.

What sets Moffitt apart is our ability to translate these findings into the clinic and become the new standard of care. Moffitt has been instrumental in leading nearly 30 trials that have led to FDA approvals, changing the standard of care,” Cleveland said. “This translates into more birthdays and seeing the grandkids. This is also a recruiting hook for the best faculty.”

Headshot of Dr. Jennifer Permuth
Dr. Jennifer Permuth, Vice Chair of Research in Gastrointestinal Oncology

For Permuth, funds from the state were instrumental in her collaboration with UF and Sylvester on studying early detection and prevention efforts for pancreatic cancer. This effort has been expanded to tackle health disparities related to the disease at 15 institutions and community partners throughout Florida.

The announcement “is near and dear to my heart,” said Casey DeSantis, who shared her own breast cancer diagnosis in October. “I thought, this could never happen to me. But it can happen to anybody,” she said. Although she didn’t feel a lump, she felt like something was wrong and went to her OB-GYN, who said everything was fine. But that nagging feeling persisted, and she got a mammogram, which is how she found her breast cancer.

She knows firsthand that early detection saves lives, and her message is simple: Get preventive screenings when you can as early as you can because it can save your life.

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