North Collier Fire Rescue firefighter David Perez had always taken pride in his health. When his father died of a heart attack, David changed his diet and kept up his exercise regimen—he wanted a long, full life with his wife and two children. So, when his bloodwork from a routine fire department physical came back irregular, cancer wasn’t even on his radar.
David felt confused and afraid when he learned he had multiple myeloma, a deadly blood cancer. “It was fear of the unknown,” he said. “How long did I have? How long was I going to be there for my kids?” Fortunately, Dr. James E. Hoffman, assistant professor of clinical medicine, was able draw on Sylvester’s unique resources to treat David with a combination of medications. That treatment produced excellent results.
“At my first appointment with Dr. Hoffman, he told me that I was in good hands,” David said. “Sylvester had the best people on their team and access to state-of-the-art medications and treatment, and I had youth and health on my side.”
David had often heard that firefighters were more at risk for various cancers, but he hadn’t experienced it firsthand until his diagnosis. When he learned of Sylvester’s nationwide Firefighter Cancer Initiative at the 2021 DCC, he dedicated himself to raising awareness about the high rates of cancer among his colleagues.
“When I showed up at Hard Rock Stadium that morning and saw so many firefighters in their gear, I started crying. I realized I wasn’t alone in my fight against cancer,” he said. “There’s something in firefighters’ DNA that we just have a duty to act. This is my new duty to act: to help other firefighters and anybody with cancer in any way I can.”
C. Ola Landgren, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Medicine; Chief, Myeloma Program Division of Hematology; Leader, Experimental Therapeutics Program; Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Health System
Carl Ola Langren, M.D., is committed to finding a cure for multiple myeloma, the second most common blood cancer. “We have made a great deal of progress in recent years – especially in targeted drugs and immunotherapy,” said Dr. Langren, who leads Sylvester’s Myeloma Service and Experimental Therapeutics Program. “I believe we are not that far away from reaching our goal of finding a cure.”
In his genomics laboratory, Dr. Langren studies all aspects of multiple myeloma, which is one of the serious cancer risks faced by first responders. He is also developing sophisticated blood tests to assess the effectiveness of treatments, and is involved in drug development in order to offer early-stage medications to patients with few options.
Dr. Langren said funds raised through the DCC are vital for Sylvester’s leading-edge clinical and scientific research. “We rely on private philanthropy for resources that help us launch exciting new studies,” he said. “By bringing the Sylvester community together, the DCC also enhances our ability to attract top researchers who bring new ideas for fighting cancer and new hope to our patients.”Share this story