BYLINE: Lisette Hilton

Newswise — Nima Sharifi, M.D., has been named scientific director of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Desai Sethi Urology Institute, a role in which he will collaborate with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center to drive translational science focused on prostate and other genitourinary cancers.

Currently the director of research on genitourinary cancers and endowed chair for prostate cancer research at Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Sharifi will bring members of his research group with him to Miami and recruit others to build a translational science team of investigators focused on bridging laboratory research on prostate, kidney and bladder cancers to human studies.

“The Desai Sethi Urology Institute is expanding beyond providing outstanding clinical care, with an enormous commitment to science—not just basic or laboratory science, but also translational science to connect our understanding of very basic mechanisms of disease related to urology. Much of that discovery is related to prostate, kidney and bladder cancers and moving those findings into the clinic to transform care for patients,” Dr. Sharifi said. “My task is to build that translational foundation, which is similar to what our team has done at the Cleveland Clinic.”

Dr Sharifi was an aspirational choice for the role of scientific director of the Desai Sethi Urology Institute and will provide transformational leadership within both the Institute and Sylvester, said Dipen J. Parekh, M.D., founding director of the Desai Sethi Urology Institute.

“Dr. Sharifi belongs to the highest echelon of physician scientists who have led seminal discoveries in the fields of prostate cancer, steroid metabolism and human physiology. These findings have implications on cancers within multiple organs and fills an unmet need in discovering novel targets for new drugs and molecules,” Dr. Parekh said. “Findings from Dr. Sharifi’s labs are already being tested in human clinical trials – a testimony to his excellence and applicability of his high caliber science to make an actual clinical difference.”

Genitourinary cancers are among the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the U.S., with prostate being the most common cancer among men.

“Our recruitment of Dr. Sharifi, collaboratively with the Desai Sethi Urology Institute sends a powerful message that, as the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in South Florida, Sylvester is committed to not only treating genitourinary cancers but also conducting the highest-level research, improving outcomes for patients and discovering cures,” Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D. said. “Since our NCI designation, we have continued to attract world-leading researchers like Dr Sharifi. While his area of focus is in prostate cancer, his expertise and leadership will have an impact beyond GU cancers.”

Dr. Sharifi said he and colleagues have demonstrated particular expertise in metabolism and physiology as it relates to cancer.

“We fully intend to take this in multiple different directions. For example, currently we are looking at the interaction between dietary intake and how that affects metabolism in the context of men who have

prostate cancer,” Dr. Sharifi said. “That relates to nutritional intake, genetics and metabolism, and all of it comes together to affect either the risk for developing cancer or how men with aspects of metabolism have different responses to hormonal therapy.”

This research is highly relevant because many of today’s prostate cancer treatments--hormone therapies, in particular--have side effects that are related to metabolism.

“All of it really comes to the same basic questions of what really drives the disease and how can we use that information to improve outcomes for people who have these kinds of cancers, to cure them or prevent them,” Dr. Sharifi said. “The ultimate goal here at the Institute and Sylvester, is to do very exciting high-impact science, and to have that eventually connect back to the patients. The clinical impact is really important to me. Combining exciting science with clinical impact--that’s the central focus of what we do. Our team is energized and excited for the work we plan to do together at the Desai Sethi Urology Institute and Sylvester.”