Castor tours Moffitt Cancer Center

08/28/07 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

This morning U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor met with administrators and researchers at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute on the University of South Florida Tampa campus.

Castor represents parts of St. Petersburg, Tampa and nearby areas, including USF. She discussed the recent federal appropriations she helped secured for the Cancer Center. The Defense Authorization Bill included $10 million, and an additional $7.5 million were in the Defense Appropriations Bill.

Jack Pledger is deputy director of the Moffitt Cancer Center and director for basic research. He outlined the history of the center, which opened in 1986, described current cancer research and gave Castor a tour of several research laboratories.

One was a seemingly endless room full of parallel lab benches containing gene sequencers, centrifuges, and other research equipment. That single room serves as the research laboratory for six faculty members and their post doctoratess, students and lab techs.

Pledger also took Castor to a smaller lab to demonstrate of the use of microarrays in oncology, or cancer research. Pledger emphasized what is known as translational research, where results can be applied to patients in the clinic.

Alan List is a professor of medicine and oncology at USF; he is also the division chief of malignant hematology. List tries to develop new therapies for diseases such as myelodisplastic syndromes (MDS), which are malignancies of the stem cells that form blood cells.

His lab’s research led to Food and Drug Administration approval of a drug that is effective in treating MDS patients who have a specific type of chromosomal abnormality called 5Q-deletion. Patients are screened for a certain chromosomal deletion and the 15-20 percent who have it, have a high rate of recovery when the drug is administered.

Jeffrey Webber, a professor of interdisciplinary oncology, was recently recruited by Moffitt to be director of the new comprehensive melanoma research center that was started with a multimillion dollar donation from a private citizen.

Moffitt plans to become one of the leading skin cancer research centers in the country.

Moffitt has a Tampa Bay Community Cancer Network that serves at-risk populations such as migrant farmers and will pay for an uninsured patient’s treatment if cancer is found during screening. This is part of Moffitt’s research into health disparities, according to Pledger.

Castor asked how she could work with Moffitt to provide medical care to lower income citizens and she is satisfied with the programs that are already under way.

For more information:

Rep. Kathy Castor

H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center

Tampa Bay Community Cancer Network

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