University of Florida-led ReMission Summit unites experts to catalyze new brain tumor research

In an effort to expand the horizons of treatment and research and move patient outcomes forward, the University of Florida brought together many of the world’s leading brain cancer experts in February for the ReMission Summit Against Brain Tumors, an audacious new conference and research collaboration dedicated to rewriting the story of brain cancer.

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During a ReMission Summit panel presentation featuring leading neurosurgery chairs from across the country. (Photo courtesy of UF Health)

The inaugural summit took place Friday, Feb. 22, through Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel in Orlando, Fla. I, along with my colleague and summit co-director, William A. Friedman, M.D., invited more than 100 expert investigators and physician-scientists from major brain tumor research centers in the U.S., Canada and Germany to collaborate on new treatments capable of enhancing patient survival rates and quality of life.

The weekend conference closed with a series of small-group workshops on immunotherapy and precision-medicine techniques for adult and pediatric brain cancer patients. These group sessions were coordinated to help drive the creation of four new scientific papers that we plan to publish, highlighting some of the summit’s major advances. We will reconvene the ReMission Summit annually during the next 10 years.

An Alliance of Hope

The ReMission Summit also served as the public forum for the debut of the ReMission Alliance Against Brain Tumors, a groundbreaking, collaborative initiative led by UF that will unite world-leading neuro-oncology physicians and scientists in the advancement of brain tumor immunotherapy research and clinical trials. Our goal for the alliance is to transform brain cancer research and improve patient survivability over the next 10 years.

Orlando hotel magnate Harris Rosen, who has provided vital seed funding, was drawn to the alliance’s collaborative approach to pooling resources and research expertise. He said this type of partnership can create a paradigm shift in the research and treatment of brain cancer and engineer a brighter future for patients like his son Adam, who passed away in November after a two-and-a-half year battle with brain cancer.

“Instead of a competitive, non-caring, non-sharing philosophy, the ReMission Alliance shall forever change this rather Stone Age approach to a much more pragmatic, productive and sharing initiative,” Rosen said. “In addition, we have no doubt that this new collaborative philosophy will dramatically impact in a very positive way the timeframe within which brain cancer treatments and cures shall be discovered.”

Transforming the Future

During our summit, Gregory C. Simon, president of the Biden Cancer Initiative, offered an outstanding keynote address, and leading neuro-oncologist Roger Stupp, M.D., of Northwestern University, shared experiences from his extraordinary career. Anita Zucker, CEO of the InterTech Group and a UF Board of Trustees member, served as chair of the ReMission Summit and shared her own personal experience with brain cancer with the researchers in attendance.

“I know firsthand how arduous, how long and trying the journey can be. I lost my husband, Jerry, 11 years ago this April,’’ she said. “To me, dealing with that is one of the most difficult things in life for anyone when you have to deal with the loss of a precious member of your family.”

Zucker said that this summit, and the alliance that it will support, has the capacity to change brain cancer from a fatal diagnosis to a chronic disease that can be treated and managed with the help of skilled physicians.

“We can transform the future of brain cancer research through this summit and the efforts of each of you,” she said. “We are driven by the same shared aspiration, a vision of a future where odds have shifted in favor of the patient, where a brain tumor diagnosis is a comma, not a full stop, in a patient’s life.”

The summit built on the success and growth of UF’s Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy and collaborative research partnerships fostered over several years by myself and my colleagues. Over the past five years, the center has undergone dramatic growth and established itself as a leader for brain tumor treatment and research. Through UF’s leadership and support of several bold research projects and clinical trials coordinated with principal partners from among the world’s best research institutes and hospitals, we are demonstrating how we can leverage our research expertise and academic excellence to create a lasting impact in the health care field and improve the quality of life for brain tumor patients.

Duane A. Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D.

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