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Florida’s First Lady Unveils “Cancer Connect Collaborative”

The new Cancer Connect Collaborative announced by First Lady Casey DeSantis aims to break down barriers between researchers, cancer facilities and medical providers to lead the nation and save lives.

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TAMPA, FLORIDA — Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the Cancer Connect Collaborative, an expansion of Florida Cancer Connect. The collaborative consists of a team of medical professionals working to analyze and reconsider Florida’s approach to cancer research, diagnosis, and treatments.

“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. 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 combating cancer in Florida:

  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.
  3. Innovation. Cutting the red tape and fully unleashing the power of innovation in the battle against cancer. The Collaborative will identify the reasons that technology gets held up – whether in 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.
  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.

“First Lady Casey DeSantis understands that we need more innovation, collaboration, and compassion to improve early cancer detection and prevention,” said Florida 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.”


Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Jason Weida said the highest-quality care and supporting research will be provided at Florida’s world-class cancer centers.

“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 combating this disease,” said Weida.

Inaugural members of the Cancer Connect Collaborative include Dr. Nicholas Panetta, a faculty member at the 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; Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo; the Agency for Health Care Secretary Jason Weida; and Representative Sam Garrison.

Casey DeSantis was declared cancer-free by doctors last year and says she is committed to supporting Floridians facing cancer. Support can be found on the Florida Cancer Connect website.