Giving back the gift of care: Nurse and two-time cancer survivor is passionate about helping others

Tonya Ringo, R.N., C.S.O. Tonya Ringo’s passion for helping children remains strong despite her own health challenges.

Tonya Ringo, R.N., C.S.O., is a registered nurse uniquely equipped to care for patients at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. She knows exactly what it’s like to be the chronically ill kid in and out of the doctor’s office.

At just 10 years old, she was diagnosed with scoliosis and fitted with a cumbersome back brace at the same hospital she works at now.

That brace frequently cracked and wore out thanks to constant use and the smothering Florida heat, so she returned often for repairs and checkups. While most kids dread visits to the doctor, Ringo embraced them at a young age thanks to her physician, Robert Bright, M.D., one of the nation’s top pediatric surgeons at the time.

In contrast to the non-stop teasing Ringo endured at school, she found a welcoming environment with her pediatric orthopaedic team. Before long, she developed a close bond with Bright.

“He was just a very sincere and caring doctor,” Ringo said. “He always told me, from the start, that I could do anything.”

Ringo took inspiration from Bright’s compassion, and she soon grew interested in the medical field.

When she told Bright she wanted to be a pediatric nurse, he encouraged her.

“He kind of became my mentor,” Ringo said. “He just shared his medical stuff with me and said that it would be terrific if I took up the medical field.”

After a few years, however, Bright moved to Baltimore.

Ringo was then placed under the care of a new physician who was less enthusiastic about her aspirations. He told her nursing was too demanding of a job for someone with her back problems, but Ringo did not let it deter her.

Ringo corresponded with Bright through letters, and would eat lunch with him when he came back to Gainesville every six months. All the while, however, Ringo’s scoliosis was worsening. By the time she was in 10th grade, her spine had fused from the base of her back all the way up to chest-level. So, Ringo and her family drove to Baltimore to see Bright for surgery.

The operation was a success, though Ringo was forced to wear a cast covering her chest down past her hips for six months. After her long recovery, Ringo finished high school and went straight to nursing school, just like she’d always wanted.

New Clinical Trials Open for Enrollment

IMMCo-01: Atezolizumab Plus Tivozanib in Immunologically Cold Tumors

This Phase 1/2, multi-cohort trial tests the combination anti-PDL1 immune checkpoint inhibition in combination with VEGF-receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor in cancers that historically do not respond to immunotherapy alone  Through the inhibition of VEGF, it may be possible to potentiate the effect of immune checkpoint blockade, even in tumors which are traditionally thought to be unresponsive to IO monotherapy.  This study aims to evaluate the combination of the IO CPI Atezolizumab and oral VEGF-TKI, Tivozanib in the following tumor types: bile duct and gallbladder cancers, HR-/HER2+ breast cancer, Grade 2 or 3, well or moderately differentiated neuroendocrine cancer, platinum resistant ovarian cancers, soft tissue sarcomas, prostate and vulvar cancers. To qualify, patients must have progressed on at least one line of systemic therapy, with no prior exposure to checkpoint inhibitors or VEGFR-TKI, and do not have high tumor mutational burden, mismatch repair deficiency, or microsatellite instability high status.

Principal Investigators: 

Jonathan Chatzkel, M.D.

Brian Ramnaraign, M.D.

Perioperative Enfortumab Vedotin (EV) Plus Pembrolizumab (MK-3475) Versus Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy for Cisplatin-eligible Muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer (MIBC)

The purpose of this study is to assess the antitumor efficacy and safety of perioperative enfortumab vedotin (EV) plus pembrolizumab and radical cystectomy (RC) + pelvic lymph node dissection (PLND) compared with the current standard of care (neoadjuvant chemotherapy [gemcitabine plus cisplatin] and RC + PLND) for participants with MIBC who are cisplatin-eligible. Enfortumab vedotin is a type of targeted therapy called an antibody‒drug conjugate. Antibody‒drug conjugates consist of a monoclonal antibody chemically linked to a drug. The monoclonal antibody part of enfortumab vedotin binds to a protein called nectin-4, which is found on the surface of most bladder cancer cells. Combining a PD-1 inhibitor with EV may result in improved responses leading to prolonged PFS and OS.  

Principal Investigator:

Jonathan Chatzkel, M.D.: 215-593-5602

Trial of Atezolizumab and Bevacizumab With SRF388 or Placebo in Patients With Hepatocellular Carcinoma

SRF388 is a fully human IgG1 monoclonal antibody that blocks IL-27 mediated expression of inhibitory cell surface receptors. IL-27 is believed to play a role in pathogenesis and/or resistance in the tumor microenvironment of HCC.  This Phase 2 trial is designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of SRF388 in combination with atezolizumab plus bevacizumab compared to placebo in combination with atezolizumab plus bevacizumab in patients with first-line advanced or metastatic HCC. 

Principal Investigator:

Ilyas Sahin, M.D.

Accelerated Dose Schedule of Cytarabine Consolidation Therapy for Older Patients With Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in Complete Remission

A Phase 2, open-label, non-randomized study evaluating the safety of administering high dose cytarabine (HiDAC) consolidation therapy on days 1-3 of each cycle, as compared to standard administration on days 1, 3, & 5 of each cycle, in patients 61 years or older with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Principal Investigator: 

Jack Hsu, M.D.