By Todd Taylor
The UF Health-led ReMission Summit for Brain Tumors transitioned to a virtual platform this year, but the mission remained unchanged: More than 100 attendees converged to present research, share ideas, strengthen relationships and plot future collaborations to improve outcomes for patients with brain tumors.
Attendees at the third annual summit, held online Feb. 20, included leading investigators and physician-scientists from the 12 partner institutions making up the ReMission Alliance Against Brain Tumors along with collaborators and passionate supporters from across the U.S. and beyond.
“The goal of both the alliance and summit is to bring people together in the field to share ideas and try to bring forward some very innovative, transformative clinical trials that will ideally move the benchmark of five-year overall survival for some of the most refractory brain tumors for both children and adults,” said Duane A. Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., who co-directs the ReMission Alliance and UF’s Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy with William A. Friedman, M.D.
Mitchell and Friedman led the creation of the ReMission Summit in 2019 to unite top brain tumor experts under one roof for an annual gathering in Orlando, but this year’s summit was shifted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The voices of those who have lost loved ones to brain cancer were prominent during the summit, which opened with a video featuring ReMission Alliance advocates Deborah Chapin and Michael Kanis, who each lost a child to the devastating disease.
ReMission Summit co-chairs Harris Rosen, who lost his son Adam Michael Rosen to brain cancer, and Anita Zucker, who lost her husband Jerry Zucker to brain cancer, addressed the attendees, thanking them for their ongoing efforts and expressing their faith in the group’s ability to work collaboratively to discover better treatments and, ultimately, cures for brain tumor patients.
“The journey toward a cure will be a long and winding one, but for Jerry and for the many brain cancer patients past, present and future, we must remain diligently committed. I’m certain that with our support, the ReMission Alliance will change the lives of all those impacted by this devastating disease,” said Zucker, a UF Board of Trustees member and chair and CEO of The InterTech Group.
During the summit, the inaugural Bret Hale ReMission Alliance Scholarship was presented by Paul Hale, who lost his son Bret to a brain tumor, and Ron and Dianne Farb, founders of The Climb for Cancer Foundation. The recipient of the $2,500 scholarship was Madison Kusky, a brain tumor survivor who is pursuing a nursing career at the College of Central Florida.
“To the ReMission Alliance, I can’t thank you enough for the work that you’re doing to fight brain tumors,” Kusky said. “I’m so honored to be the first recipient of the Bret Hale ReMission Alliance Scholarship.”
The summit featured presentations about the latest developments in immunotherapeutic research; breakout sessions on key topics including advances in artificial intelligence, brain tumor immunotherapy, engineering approaches in brain tumor research and myeloid-derived suppressor cells in glioma, epigenetic heterogeneity and glioma metabolism; a guest lecture by Mona Flores, M.D., global head of medical AI at NVIDIA, who discussed the use of artificial intelligence in health care and cancer; and a perspectives workshop.
“This past year, we’ve been challenged by the pandemic and unable to physically gather, but as many have, we’ve leveraged the opportunity to meet virtually,” Mitchell said. “I know we all wish we were gathered in Orlando, and hopefully next year we will have the opportunity to meet in person.”