Leveraging the popularity of sports to make a positive impact against cancer, the V Foundation for Cancer Research and the Miami Dolphins Foundation continue to team up in their efforts to support innovative research.
Before a nationally televised audience on October 11, the V Foundation, a cancer research charity founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, legendary North Carolina State University basketball coach and ESPN commentator, awarded $100,000 to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher Lluis Morey, Ph.D. The Foundation’s support was matched by another $100,000 from the Miami Dolphins Foundation, through the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, the Foundation’s signature fundraising event for research at Sylvester.
Dr. Morey, who leads the Morey Lab on Chromatin and Dynamics in Stem Cells and Cancer at Sylvester, received the honor as the winner of the “2019 Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Early Career Investigator Award” for his groundbreaking work to find a cure for breast cancer. His research aims to understand how epigenetic mechanisms regulate cancer growth and has promising implications for advancing treatment options and improving the lives of those living with breast cancer.
Epigenetic mechanisms are changes in gene function that do not depend on changes in gene sequences but rather on changes in how genes are turned on or off or moderated in their activity. For instance, how open or available DNA strands are to interaction with regulating molecules can affect gene activity and drive the cancer mutations.
“It is an honor to be considered worthy of receiving support from the V Foundation, and I am very grateful to be one of the awardees of the 2019 Early Career Investigator Award,” said Dr. Morey, an assistant professor in the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “With the support of the V Foundation, my laboratory will be able to contribute to a cure for aggressive luminal breast cancers.”
The Morey Lab is focused on dissecting the molecular and biological functions of epigenetics in cancer and stem cells. Dr. Morey has made a number of important contributions in identifying and characterizing essential regulators involved in stem cell identity, differentiation and cancer progression. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, and completed his postdoctoral training at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona.
Epigenetics research offers promising solutions to the major health crisis of breast cancer. In the United States alone, one out of eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. In fact, an estimated 325,010 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States by the end of 2020. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Foundations such as the V Foundation and the Miami Dolphins Foundation have dedicated major fundraising efforts to support research designed to improve the lives of cancer patients, and, ultimately, eradicate this disease.
Accelerating both Foundations’ drive to advance breakthrough cancer research is a belief in institutions that tackle complex problems with multidisciplinary and targeted solutions designed to improve care for patients.
“We are grateful for the support of the V Foundation and the Miami Dolphin Foundation – two ideal partners in our work to save lives and find cures,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester, the Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, and professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology. “Their commitment helps us amplify the national urgency around our battle against cancer and shines a spotlight on innovative research here at Sylvester and UHealth that is making a difference for those living with this devastating disease.”
Sylvester was named a National Cancer Institute designated cancer center in 2019, becoming the only NCI-designated cancer center in South Florida, the second in Florida, and one of just 71 across the nation. The renowned Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute at Sylvester is one of the nation’s foremost breast cancer diagnosis and care programs, delivering customized treatments by multidisciplinary teams, powered by patient-centered research.
Both the V Foundation and the Dolphins Cancer Challenge were born out of strong ties to those afflicted by the devastating disease of cancer. The Dolphin Cancer Challenge was launched in 2010 as a signature initiative of the Miami Dolphins Foundation in honor of the late Dolphin great, Jim Mandich, who lost his battle to bile duct cancer in 2011. Thousands of cyclists, runners, and walkers complete the annual event to raise funds for cancer research at Sylvester. Last year alone, 5,000 participants raised close to $4 million, bringing the total raised over nine years to $32 million, with every penny going to groundbreaking research in pursuit of the cure for cancer.
“Our partnership with Sylvester and the V Foundation generates the kind of single-minded passion required to find the cure and offers hope to those fighting cancer every day of their lives,” said Javier Sanchez, director of Development & Partnerships, Dolphins Cancer Challenge. “Dr. Morey’s work represents the innovation, dedication, and rigor required in this battle, and we are proud to support his efforts.”
The V Foundation was introduced at ESPN’s inaugural ESPY Awards in 1993 when Jim Valvano received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for his perseverance and positive outlook while battling cancer. During his inspirational speech, Valvano announced the formation of the V Foundation. For 27 years, ESPN has partnered with the V Foundation to highlight the impact of funding life-saving cancer research and has proudly awarded more than $250 million in support since then, including an earlier award to research at Sylvester.
“We can declare Victory Over Cancer by working together and amplifying our support of important research,” said Sherrie Mazur, senior vice president of communications and public affairs, the V Foundation for Cancer Research. “Dr. Morey’s work is essential in our goal to save lives – we are so pleased to support his research.”