GIST Day of Learning (GDOL), a free event, was held at the University of Miami on Saturday, March 23. Sponsored through the generous support of Bayer, Novartis and Genentech, this event is the second in a series of seminars focusing on the education and support of GIST patients and their families.
The event marked a continuing collaboration between the LRG and Jonathan C. Trent, M.D., PhD, a GIST specialist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Miami Sylvester Cancer Center. Over 40 patients, caregivers and volunteers gathered to learn, forge new friendships, and consult with some of the foremost GIST authorities in the region.
Although those in attendance came primarily from Florida, we were excited to greet attendees from Alaska, Australia, Tennessee and Georgia! Because of feedback from last year’s event, old and new friends were given extra time to mingle. Many were meeting other GIST patients for the first time, and expressed feeling both inspiration and optimism from this experience.
Contributing to the tremendous success of the event were the GIST professionals who all displayed an exemplary spirit of giving and dedication for the benefit of this unique community of patients. We are thankful to the University of Miami for providing the venue, and wish to acknowledge their team of specialists, who are leaders in providing excellence in GIST diagnosis, management and awareness.
Dr. Trent, whose cooperation has made GDOL possible, is the Co-Director of the Musculoskeletal Center, Director of the Sarcoma Medical Research Program, and Professor at the University of Miami (UM). His practice is located at the Sylvester Comprehensive Care Center. Outstanding in his field, his research findings on GIST have been presented in several esteemed medical publications. In addition to facilitating the meeting, he shared his vast knowledge in “GIST Overview” and spoke on “Clinical Trials Explained and Explored.”
Alan S. Livingstone M.D., FACS, is Professor and Chairman of the Lucille and DeWitt Daughtry Department of Surgery at the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine, where he maintains a busy surgical practice in addition to an active involvement in translational research for a variety of cancers. He is the author of numerous books, book chapters, peer reviewed surgical periodicals, has lectured world-wide and has a prime interest in educating the medical students and residents at UM. His presentation on “Surgery and Other Options” was enormously informative, and offered a variety of slides from actual surgical resections on advanced GIST tumors. It is without question that Dr. Livingstone sets the standard in advanced surgical expertise; having recently completed a number of resections for GIST patients previously deemed inoperable by outside facilities.
Lunch was combined with “A Roundtable Discussion on Side Effects”, an important topic led by Elizabeth Fontao, MS, and PA-C. Ms. Fontao, a licensed and certified Physician Assistant, has extensive experience in oncology, and currently dedicates much of her time to sarcoma and GIST. She works in concert with Dr. Trent at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she is responsible for patient chemo and immune therapy support, side effect management and follow-up care. The format of this segment bolstered the participation of the attendees and individual side effect woes were brought up and addressed.
A lecture on “Pathology and Role of Mutations in GIST Treatments” was presented by Andrew E. Rosenberg, M.D., Chief of Anatomic Pathology, Director of Bone and Soft Tissue Service and Professor of Pathology at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Care Center. Dr. Rosenberg has published extensively and actively consults for the College of American Pathologists and The American Joint Commission on Cancer, serves on several Editorial Boards and has been an invited lecturer at local and international medical conferences. His slides and accompanying information offered a comprehensive explanation of what GIST looks like under a microscope. He further underscored the crucial role mutational testing has in directing a course of treatment, and recommended this be determined for every GIST that is diagnosed.
“Clinical Trials Explained and Explored” was discussed by Dr. Trent. After a review of the trials across the United States, Dr. Trent discussed the importance of these efforts in identifying new medications for GIST. Fourth and fifth-line drugs are currently being sought and there is a great need for GIST patient participation.
This event was a result of many people from various locations working together, and we wish to extend our gratitude to all who offered their time and talent. We would like to send a special thank you to Alice Sulkowski, R.D., C.D.E. A nutritionist, a GIST survivor, and a longtime LRG friend, Alice provided handouts on “Nutrition and GIST” for all our attendees. She works at Mountain States Health Alliance in Johnson City, Tennessee.
We also wish to acknowledge with gratitude our sponsors, Bayer, Genentech and Novartis for their generous support of the meeting. In addition we extend a befitting thank you to Dr. Derek Naten, Kristen Alleque and Richard Proctor from Bayer for their attendance and unwavering support for our educational events.
Pictures from the event were courtesy of our volunteer photographer Don Edgar of DL Photography based in Miami. Don is double thanked, as this is the second GDOL event he worked for us and we are truly appreciative. It was our good fortune to locate Phillip Lwiza, a Miami-based Videographer to offer his discerning eye and equipment in the recording of this event. Thank you both for providing your photographic perspective to this important meeting.