Eduardo Sotomayor, MD

Beginning with his 1998 Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) Fellowship Award and continuing with a 2002 Junior Faculty Award, Dr. Eduardo M. Sotomayor, Mantle Cell Lymphoma Consortium (MCLC) member and the Susan and John Sykes Endowed Chair in Hematologic Malignancies at Moffitt Cancer Center, has had a long relationship with LRF. His research efforts have progressed through the years and enabled him to win a prestigious $2.5 million R01 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study molecular targets in B-cell lymphomas in June of this year.

Dr. Sotomayor believes the five-year grant will help his team make significant strides in validating two molecular targets that his lab has already found to regulate inflammatory responses in B-cell lymphomas, specifically in Mantle Cell lymphoma (MCL). MCL is an aggressive form of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). It is a relatively rare disease, constituting only six percent of all NHL cases in the United States, or about 3,000 cases per year.

"We will be evaluating the immunotherapeutic effects of Stat3 inhibitors, developed by Dr. Said Sebti at Moffitt Cancer Center, and more specific histone deacetylase inhibitors targeting HDAC6, developed by our collaborator, Dr. Alan Kozikowski at University of Illinois, in an animal model of MCL. We'll do the same in human MCL cell lines and primary cells obtained from MCL patients seen at Moffitt Cancer Center," Dr. Sotomayor explained. "The compound we find to be most effective, will be moved into future clinical trials either alone or in combination with our therapeutic MCL vaccine platform."

In addition to the awards mentioned earlier, Dr. Sotomayor was involved in a LRF 2004 MCL Initiative (MCLI) grant led by Sophie Dessureault, MD, PhD, also at Moffitt. The MCLI grant program began in 2003 and has supported 38 grants for more than $22M. The MCLC was formed in 2005 to maximize the rate of discovery through networking, sharing and development of value added programming such as the MCL website and cell bank. Sotomayor credits the MCLC with several major advances in MCL treatment and for organizing a specially trained MCL team at his institution.

"The MCL Initiative grant we received from LRF in 2004 was the catalyst to assemble a multidisciplinary team of basic scientists, physician-scientists, clinicians and hematopathologists that are entirely focused on MCL research," said Sotomayor. "Without the support from LRF's MCLI grant, it would have been impossible to create this dynamic group at Moffitt Cancer Center. I strongly believe that the knowledge generated by all the investigators brought to this field by the MCLC will provide benefit beyond the treatment of MCL and will benefit patients with other types of B-cell malignancies."

As a medical student at the Federico Villarreal University School of Medicine in Lima, Peru, a Resident at the University of Miami School of Medicine and a Fellow at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, Dr. Sotomayor was drawn to the field of lymphoma. Among his first research projects, he worked in the tumor immunology laboratory of Hyam Levitsky, MD at Johns Hopkins studying an animal model of B-cell lymphoma. He also looked up to his clinical mentor, former LRF Scientific Advisory Board member Richard Ambinder, MD. Speaking of Ambinder, Sotomayor said, "his passion for lymphomas and his compassionate care fostered my interest in this disease even further, and since then I have been engaged exclusively in lymphoma research and the clinical care of lymphoma patients."

Intrigued by the various behaviors of different lymphomas and inspired by the perseverance of his patients, Sotomayor enjoys satisfying his curiosity about the disease with his research and clinical activities.

"It is very rewarding to be a part of a specialty that is at the forefront of rapidly translating new knowledge into more effective therapies for lymphoma patients," he said.

Dr. Sotomayor and his lab have contributed significantly to the MCL group at Moffitt by "developing and testing novel vaccines and molecularly-based strategies to augment immune response in MCL," he said. In addition to the activities supported by the NIH grant, he will continue his immunobiology and immunotherapy work which led to his discovery that B-cell lymphomas can cause tolerance or "paralysis" of immune cells. He thinks this research will lead to the identification of more molecular targets with the potential to show the way to more effective treatments down the line.

When asked for the most important piece of advice he would give to a newly diagnosed lymphoma patient, Dr. Sotomayor said it is important to understand that "lymphoma is not one diagnosis. There are more than 60 different types of lymphomas, and as such, the biopsy slides need to be reviewed by an experienced pathologist with expertise in lymphoma diagnosis. Second, do a lot of research on your own and always try to seek the opinion of a lymphoma specialist. Third, do not be afraid to ask questions to your doctor or medical team."

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