Our Founder's Story

debra

"In 2007, I was diagnosed with Stage II melanoma despite being under the care of a top dermatologist. For several years I had been told the bleeding spot on the bottom of my foot was a wart. After several skin grafts and a difficult physical and emotional recovery, I was horrified to discover the prognosis for advanced stage melanoma had not improved over the past 40 years.

Melanoma incidence is rising - it is the fastest-growing cancer - and survival for those with advanced disease is static at 15 percent. If melanoma isn't caught early, it can be fatal - one person dies from melanoma every hour in the United States. I have been one of the lucky ones - but too many others are not so fortunate. My husband, Leon, and I couldn't believe the statistics, so we decided to take action.

The Melanoma Research Alliance was born with the help of our visionary friend Mike Milken and incubated by the Milken Institute. Our goal is to accelerate the science to transform outcomes for this disease. We believe that venture philanthropy, coupled with a global and strategic scientific agenda, can spur innovative research needed to develop and improve the outlook for patients with melanoma, as well as those at risk.

Right now we are at a breakthrough moment for melanoma. The discovery of a new biomarker (BRAF) and the ability to harness the body's immune system give promise to new medications to cure melanoma. We are proud to work with the world's most innovative melanoma researchers, as well as partners and companies, with a shared goal of curing this disease.

Too many people don't realize how dangerous melanoma can be - that it is the deadliest of all skin cancers. Many of us grew up without knowing as much as we know today about ways to reduce our risk -- protecting our skin from harmful UV rays and visiting dermatologists regularly. Today there are many things people can do to reduce risk - but we still have much to do to bring about better outcomes for melanoma patients. Everyone is at risk even with reduced sun exposure.

Every day I feel blessed to have discovered my melanoma before it spread to other parts of my body, although there is always risk with melanoma. MRA is committed to transforming the field of melanoma toward the time when no family has to worry about this devastating disease. At MRA, we are dedicated to working with everyone that shares our vision of eliminating suffering and death from melanoma. We thank our many wonderful friends, allies, and partners for their support and are proud to say 100 percent of every dollar publicly raised by MRA goes directly to fund research. We hope you will join us."