Behind the Scenes


From left, Luis E. Raez, MD, FACP and Gregg Fields, Ph.D.

Cancer Center of Excellence: Behind the Scenes

Creating a Cancer Center of Excellence

Collaboration between Gregg Fields, Ph.D, and Luis E. Raez, MD, FACP, had one main mission in mind: to certify the Memorial Cancer Institute Florida Atlantic University (MCIFAU) as a Florida Cancer Center of Excellence (FCCOE). Fields and Raez, co-directors of MCIFAU, met their goal in March 2021 and have since turned the certification into a powerhouse partnership that drives research and results.

“We have been able to create an important alliance to build cancer research in South Florida,” said Fields, interim vice president for Research and director of FAU’s Institute for Human Health and Disease Intervention (I-Health).

Consider this, the MCIFAU FCCOE has:

  • More than 110 members including physicians and scientists from MCI, FAU, The Herbert Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation & Technology and Gift of Life.
  • Clinical research professor appointments in I-Health.
  • A grant portfolio with funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Florida Department of Health, Community Foundation of Broward, the pharmaceutical industry and philanthropy.
  • A H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center partnership, with more than 25 Moffit physicians and Advanced Practice Providers working at Memorial Hospital West, allowing delivery of the best cellular therapy for patients with hematology malignancies including more than 450 procedures (CAR-T cell therapy, allogeneic and autologous marrow transplantations).
  • Opened more than 65 clinical trials that provide access to patients with new agents that are not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as being the first cancer center in Florida to enroll patients in two clinical trials with the agent LOXO-292, an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor developed for patients that carry tumors with the RET translocations.

“We were able to benefit a dozen patients that came from other cities in Florida and other countries like Peru, Brazil and Colombia after they failed standard therapy for lung, thyroid and colorectal cancers, two years before the FDA approval,” said Raez, chief scientific officer and medical director of MCI. “Our research portfolio has been increasing mainly around Phase I studies with new agents and basket and umbrella studies (multi-tumoral) that expedite the approval of more agents for cancer therapy.”

The MCIFAU FCCOE has also earned numerous accolades including being one of the main members of the NCI Alliance of Clinical Trials, being a cancer center of excellence for lung, breast and hematology malignant tumors and being the first certified Oncology Medical Home in Florida by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The MCIFAU FCCOE also benefits from graduate medical education, with 15 hematology/oncology fellows, it is one of the largest programs in the state of Florida, providing oncology education to internal medicine residents and medical students from training programs.

“We have many exciting new programs and projects that benefit our patients, such as the incidental pulmonary program, where we use artificial intelligence to help improve lung cancer detection, the creation of a biorepository for minority cancer patients (tumor bank), and the implementation of social determinants of health dashboards in the electronic medical records to help us eliminate disparities in cancer care,” Fields said. “We firmly believe that this is only the beginning of our journey to become a destination for cancer patients in the Southeast United States and Latin America and we are working hard to achieve this goal.”

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