First Lady Casey DeSantis

Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis Announces The Cancer Connect Collaborative

Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the Cancer Connect Collaborative, an expansion of Florida Cancer Connect that will assemble a team of medical professionals to analyze and rethink Florida’s approach to combatting cancer.
First Lady Casey DeSantis (Screengrab from roundtable)

Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the Cancer Connect Collaborative, an expansion of Florida Cancer Connect that will assemble a team of medical professionals to analyze and rethink Florida’s approach to combatting cancer.

“Thanks to Governor DeSantis, government in Florida is working for people in practical, meaningful ways,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Today, that continues in the battle against cancer. The Cancer Connect Collaborative will analyze and rethink the way Florida approaches cancer research, diagnosis, and treatments — through incentivizing proven and promising approaches to cancer care while reducing the role of bureaucratic red tape and special interests. This collaborative will chart a course of action that will lead the nation and ultimately save lives.”

At the direction of the First Lady, the Florida Cancer Connect Collaborative will focus on five primary goals to bring a revolutionary new approach to combatting cancer in Florida:

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  1. Data. Data about the proliferation and treatment of cancer should be both timely available and easily accessible. The Collaborative will seek to identify the reasons data is slow to move or hard to access and dismantle those barriers.
  2. Best practices. When it comes to treating cancer, best practices shouldn’t be proprietary. The Collaborative will seek to streamline, encourage and incentivize the sharing of treatment best practices among public and private entities so that everyone is treated with the most effective treatment possible.
  3. Innovation. Cutting the red tape and fully unleashing the power of innovation in the battle against cancer. Technology improves at an exponential rate yet application lags. The Collaborative will identify the reasons that technology gets held up — whether it be special interests, over-litigiousness or bureaucratic red tape — and recommend ways to eliminate these barriers.
  4. Funding. The Cancer Connect Collaborative will provide recommendations for the implementation of the Governor’s proposed $170 million in funding to improve the pace of cancer research and novel technologies. For record breaking funding, the Florida taxpayer deserves results. The Collaborative will deliver.
  5. Honesty. We know a lot about cancer— what causes it, and in many cases, what preventative steps can minimize the risk of a diagnosis. It’s time to open the tap on cancer information, and the Collaborative will be tasked with identifying the ways to ensure this is done.

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“First Lady Casey DeSantis understands that we need more innovation, collaboration, and compassion to improve early cancer detection and prevention,” said State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo. “By implementing these innovative initiatives, Florida will lead the nation with a proactive public health approach to helping Floridians beat cancer and live long, fulfilling lives.”

“The Agency is dedicated to providing the highest quality care and supporting ground-breaking research at our world-class cancer centers. We continue to affirm our commitment through our involvement in the First Lady’s related initiatives including Florida Cancer Connect and the new Cancer Collaborative,” said Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Jason Weida. “I am confident that this Collaborative will help to identify and close gaps between data, research findings, and cancer care innovation. Cancer touches all Floridians and with the First Lady’s leadership we continue to make strides in combatting this disease.”

Preliminary members of the Cancer Connect Collaborative include Dr. Nicholas Panetta, a faculty member at University of South Florida Health; Dr. Raj Bendre, a radiation oncologist at the Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center; Dr. Scot Ackerman, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director at the Ackerman Cancer Center in Jacksonville; Dr. Mehmet Hepgur, a Hematology/Oncology specialist at Broward Health; State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo; the Agency for Health Care Secretary Jason Weida; and Representative Sam Garrison.

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The Cancer Connect Collaborative is an expansion of Cancer Connect, an initiative launched by First Lady Casey DeSantis in August 2022 to provide cancer information and survivor stories. Florida is second in the nation for newly diagnosed cancer cases. First Lady DeSantis is committed to supporting those facing cancer and promoting the world-class care Florida offers cancer patients. No matter how cancer is affecting someone, support is available for them and can be found at the Florida Cancer Connect webpage

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