The Phoenix Flyer

Casey DeSantis announces new state cancer collaborative in Tampa

By: - February 23, 2023 1:27 pm

First Lady Casey DeSantis speaking at USF Health in Tampa on Feb. 23, 2023 (photo credit: Mitch Perry)

Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis and other state health professionals announced Thursday the creation of the Florida Cancer Connect Collaborative, designed to streamline cancer care for doctors and patients in Florida.

Ms. DeSantis is a breast cancer survivor herself. She was originally diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2021, and Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last spring that she was considered cancer-free.

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Jason Weida and Clay County Republican Sam Garrison in the state House, attended the roundtable discussion at the University of South Florida’s Health campus in downtown Tampa.

Ms. DeSantis said one of the collaborative’s major goals will be to obtain better “situational awareness” for cancer rates and recurrence rates.

“Currently there is about a two-year lag between the time when data is collected, submitted and analyzed, if at all. That’s clearly not good enough,” she said. “We need real time data to assess current trends, and act as quickly as possible to address concerns.”

Among other issues, the First Lady said: “Why are so many types of cancer skewing younger and becoming more prevalent…Why are there increasing concerns recently from some physicians about higher rates of recurrence? To move quickly in our fight, we need a better collaborative across Florida, across health care systems to quickly analyze that data, and not waiting for months or years for systems to hopefully report back and paint an updated picture of the situation.”

In his recently proposed 2023-2024 budget, DeSantis is proposing $166 million for cancer research, including $20 million separately to establish the Florida Cancer Innovation Fund to conduct what he labeled as “groundbreaking cancer research.”

“It’s not good enough anymore to hear ‘we don’t know what causes cancer? We do know a lot of what causes cancer,” she said. “Frankly, I would like that information laid out in a straightforward manner, free from tainted influences.”

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Jason Weida said that the collaboration between researchers and doctors and healthcare facilities is going to be boon for Florida and would allow state health officials to “look under the hood” at some operations.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.