Resources » Event Highlights
MRA’s third biannual benefit dinner drew a devoted group of the organization’s supporters to Sotheby’s iconic New York City headquarters and raised a record-breaking $6 million. The evening featured addresses by MRA’s leadership and 2013 Young Investigator Tara Gangadhar, MD. The live auction, led by Sotheby’s Jamie Niven, was undoubtedly the pinnacle of the evening, with attendees pledging to support 11 new MRA Young Investigator Awards, which support promising early-career scientists pursuing melanoma research. You can read MRA’s full press release on the event here. MRA would like to extend a special thank you to all of the sponsors and supporters who helped make the event a night to remember.
MRA delivered an Innovator Presentation at FasterCures' 2013 Partnering For Cures meeting in New York City. The event brought together leaders from all sectors of medical research to foster collaborations critical to speeding the development of new therapies. CEO Wendy Selig presented MRA’s Academic-Industry partnership model as an example of successful collaboration in the drug development space. She was joined by Julia Perkins, Medical Director of Oncology at Pfizer, as they discussed the collaboration between MRA and Pfizer that was launched earlier this year. A video of the presentation is available to watch on MRA’s YouTube channel.
We had a unique and impactful opportunity to raise awareness about melanoma in June, when MRA rang the Closing Bell of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Surrounded by MRA leadership and supporters, MRA Co-Founder and Chair Debra Black rang the bell on the NYSE trading floor on Tuesday, June 25th. You can watch a video of the ceremony here.
The second annual Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma fundraising and networking event was held May 21 in New York City’s Rockefeller Center. More than 800 attendees from the leveraged finance community and surrounding industries spent the evening networking and raising funds for MRA’s melanoma research. The event and silent auction generated more than $1.2 million. Featured speakers included Co-hosts Jeffrey Rowbottom of KKR and Brendan Dillon of UBS, MRA founder Debra Black, and a special video address by MRA Board Member Michael Milken. MRA would like to thank the co-hosts for their extraordinary efforts, Studio3 for helping plan the event, all of our allies who donated silent auction items, as well as all of the volunteers who donated their time to this special evening. We look forward to growing the event in 2014. For the full event overview, click here.
MRA attended the Milken Institute's 2013 Global Conference from April 28 - May 1 in Beverly Hills, CA, in full force, speaking on panels, hosting an exhibit booth, and networking with global thought-leaders and innovators. MRA's CSO Louise Perkins moderated a panel titled “Mobilizing the Immune System in the Battle Against Cancer” that featured MRA-funded investigator Suzanne Topalian as well as MRA-Board member and melanoma survivor Jeff Rowbottom. Other panelists included Arie Belldegrun, Executive Chairman, Kite Pharma Inc.; Director, UCLA Institute of Urologic Oncology and Michael Giordano, Senior Vice President, Head of Development, Oncology and Immunoscience, Bristol-Myers Squibb. MRA co-founder Debra Black also spoke about MRA's research model and her quest to speed melanoma therapies as part of the panel called “Impatient Patients: How Disease Organizations are Accelerating Research.
MRA and recent progress in melanoma research was featured as Wendy Selig moderated a panel at FasterCures’ Partnering for Cures meeting in New York City. The panel session, entitled “Molecular Diagnostics: Turning on the Lights,” discussed the components of a thoughtful strategy for incorporating high-quality, validated molecular testing into the development and delivery of targeted health interventions. Watch the session video.
In October, MRA held two days of meetings in the Bay Area with the melanoma teams at the University of California San Francisco and Stanford before heading to Salt Lake City for a productive visit at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. A highlight of this Western swing for MRA’s leadership was an intimate dinner to engage stakeholders in San Francisco, sponsored by GRAFF DIAMONDS and supported by Genentech.
Wendy Selig had the unique opportunity to represent MRA and highlight melanoma as an important case study in a unique process sponsored by the Friends of Cancer Research and the Brookings Institution. The work culminated in the release of a white-paper and presentation to more than 250 industry , government and research community leaders November 14 in Washington, DC. The focus was on providing guidance to the FDA in its implementation of new legislative authority to accelerate and streamline the process for drug approvals in areas where significant effects are seen early in the process of clinical development using a new designation called “Breakthrough Therapies.”
On May 23, the biggest names in Leveraged Finance gathered at the Bryant Park Grill to raise funds to fight melanoma. Over 650 individuals attend the cocktail reception and after party at Connolly's Pub. The evening raised approximately $750,000 to help support MRA. A special thank you to the event's extraordinary co-chairs, Jeff Rowbottom and Brendan Dillon as well as the rest of the host committee. MRA would also like to thank Studio3 for planning the event and all of the event sponsors.
On Tuesday, May 8, 2012 MRA hosted its second bi-annual benefit dinner at Sotheby's in New York City, raising approximately $5 million. One hundred percent of the funds raised from this dinner, as with all public donations to MRA, will directly support life-saving melanoma research. The event was a festive and intimate gathering of individuals and corporate partners set against the backdrop of Sotheby's spring show of contemporary art. The evening's program honored the scientists at the forefront of the research to defeat melanoma, specifically highlighting two of MRA's young investigators, Dr. Alexaner Leshokin from Memorial Sloan Kettering and Dr. Bin Zheng from Columbia, who are among the 24 recipients of MRA's Young Investigators Award. The highlight of the night was a live auction led by Michael Milken, MRA Board Member, and Jamie Niven from Sotheby's. MRA is grateful for the tremendous support from Van Wyck & Van Wyck, who produced the event, Southern Wines & Spirits who provided delicious wine pairings, as well as our sponsors Sotheby's and U.S. Trust Bank of America. The benefit dinner would not have been possible without the extraordinary event co-chairs, including:
MRA has joined with Bergdorf Goodman in New York City to promote awareness and raise funds for Melanoma Awareness Month and melanoma research. On May 3, 2012, the month-long in-store and online promotion with a sun safety and style lunch in the BG Restaurant. The lunch brought together 90 women to discuss the dangers of sun exposure and ways to protect themselves and their families. In addition to a beautiful and delicious lunch, MRA Dermatology advisor, Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, and author, Jill Kargman, spoke and encouraged people to visit their dermatologists and look stylish while protecting themselves this summer and all year round. During the entire month of May, several beauty brands and Bergdorf Goodman are conducting a range of activities to engage their customers, create awareness and raise funds for MRA. To learn more, please visit www.BG.com.
The 2012 Milken Institute Global Conference included the session Cancer Prevention: What Will it Take?" moderated by MRA President and CEO, Wendy Selig. The session discussed how many cancer cases are linked to environmental factors and how many cases can be avoided through life style change. Cancer prevention will only be successful when individual behavior is combined with early medical intervention. Panelists were: Stephen Gruber, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center; Sherry Lansing, The Sherry Lansing Foundation; Founder, EnCorps Teachers Program; Sancy Leachman, Huntsman Cancer Institute; and J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, American Cancer Society.
The Milken Institute Global Conference included an MRA panel, "Exploring the Frontiers of Medicine: How We Will Save Lives from Cancer" on May 3, 2011. The session was moderated by Wendy Selig, president and CEO, MRA. The panel used melanoma as a case study to discuss innovative approaches to saving lives. Panelists were Amy Harmon, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, The New York Times; Jill Kargman, author, "Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut"; Gregory Lucier, chairman and CEO, Life Technologies; John Mendelsohn, president, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; and Jonathan Simons, president and CEO, Prostate Cancer Foundation.
On March 22, 2011, a select group of scientific innovators and clinical thought leaders convened at the Banbury Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for a three-day symposium on "Curing melanoma and other cancers by targeted therapies." This timely gathering was only the second melanoma meeting ever held in this prestigious venue, and it was made possible by the collaborative support of the Melanoma Research Alliance and the Hazen Polsky Foundation.
Representatives from diverse but interacting fields including cancer genetics, epigenetics, metabolism, and immunology were brought together from the academic, government, and pharmaceutical sectors of scientific discovery.
This dynamic invitation-only meeting was attended not only by melanoma field "insiders," but also by experts from other areas of biology and oncology whose ideas were brought to bear on the challenge of accelerating a cure for melanoma.
The excitement from recent notable clinical progress with molecularly targeted therapies (e.g., highly selective BRAF inhibitors) and immunotherapeutic modalities (e.g., ipilimumab) was tempered by a recognition of the immediate challenge to understand and overcome resistance mechanisms to these drugs. Energetic dialogue among meeting participants led to a general conclusion that combinatorial treatment regimens will hold the key to meaningful clinical impact and an ultimate cure for melanoma.
This week the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) partnered with the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in hosting a Congressional briefing highlighting AACR's "Cancer Progress Report 2011: Transforming Patient Care through Innovation." The briefing, which focused on advances in cancer research in the 40 years since the landmark National Cancer Act of 1971, included several powerful presentations about the recent progress in cancer research, with a focus on melanoma. Among the panelists at last week's briefing were Margaret Foti, American Association for Cancer Research; The Honorable Brian Bilbray, United States Representative, 50th District of California; The Honorable Rosa DeLauro, United States Representative, 3rd District of Connecticut; Judy Garber, American Association for Cancer Research; Keith Flaherty, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School; Geoffrey Wahl; Salk Institute for Biological Studies; and melanoma survivor Roslyn Milstein Meyer. Congressman Bilbray spoke eloquently about his 24-year-old daughter's ongoing battle with Stage 3 melanoma, saying "There are great opportunities and great challenges ahead in medical research. "We need to take basic science and apply it for public consumption and we have to start by reducing the gap in funding and support the research that moves basic science toward treatment."
AACR reports that between 1990 and 2007, death rates for all cancers in the U.S. decreased by 22% for men and 14% for women, resulting in 898,000 fewer deaths. Dr. Garber said, "We have made progress in the past 40 years but there is a lot of work to do yet. Discoveries in the biology of cancer are being translated daily into new cancer therapies, diagnostics, and preventatives that define our standard of care and have extended the lives of millions of Americans."
Dr. Meyer described her diagnosis with stage 4 metastatic melanoma and outlined how an experimental treatment she received as part of a NIH clinical trial saved her life. Dr. Meyer received a form of immunotherapy that uses tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes to harness the body's immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells.
Dr. Flaherty, an MRA-funded researcher, stated, "Investing in cancer research is paying off for patients now. Investment in cancer research through the NIH drives new and better ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer." According the AACR's report, the five year survival rate for adult cancers is up 18% since 1975; however, the numbers of cancer cases are expected to increase 45% over the next two decades. Dr. Wahl said it best, "Increased investment in medical research will increase progress in medical research.
Christie's Lunch 2011
On October 11th, Christie's and Wells Fargo co-hosted a luncheon in Los Angeles in honor of the Melanoma Research Alliance. The event included the first viewing in Los Angeles of the traveling exhibit of Elizabeth Taylor's vintage clothing and jewelry that will be auctioned off in December at Christie's in New York City. The Elizabeth Taylor collection was open for public viewing October 13 - 16 at the MOCA Pacific Design Center.
Over 150 event attendees spent the first hour viewing the various pieces of Elizabeth Taylor's estate and discussing their favorite pieces under umbrellas outdoors. The viewing was followed by lunch served on the plaza at the MOCA Pacific Design Center. A variety of individuals spoke during lunch including the Chairman of Christie's Americas, Marc Porter, who introduced MRA and the importance of the ongoing support the company provides to Christian Blank, the Christie's Young Investigator. MRA co-founder Debra Black explained the reasons for which MRA was created while MRA Young Investigator, Dr. Roger Lo from UCLA, gave a brief overview of his research and how MRA has dramatically improved the field for young doctors and researchers. The speaking portion of the luncheon concluded with board member, Maria Bell, sharing her personal experiences with melanoma for the first time publicly.
MRA wants to thank the event hostesses Maria Bell, Beth Friedman, Jami Gertz, Susan Hess, Kelly Fisher Katz, Susie Krevoy, Nancy Marks, Leslie McMorrow, Carolyn Powers, Alison Ressler, Tawny Sanders and Sheryl Sokoloff. We would also like to offer a special thanks to Christie's and Wells Fargo for their collaboration, and thank you to SkinCeuticals for providing much needed sunscreen for the occasion.