Spring is finally in the air, bringing warmer days and reminding us all to be vigilant about sun safety. This is also a very busy and exciting time for the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), with research and policy news as well as the launch of Melanoma Awareness Month in May. We have a series of major initiatives in the works that will help spur more progress for patients while driving enhanced public awareness and engagement with our mission.
|Dr. Suzanne Topalian, Chair of MRA's Scientific Advisory Panel, Speaking at the AACR Meeting|
MRA is finalizing its 2014 Grant Portfolio, which will include a record number of projects supported with an all-time annual high funding total. This year marked our seventh granting cycle and saw an extraordinary number of excellent and innovative proposals. Stay tuned for this special announcement from MRA in the coming weeks.
On the outreach front, MRA is thrilled to have joined L’Oréal Paris in announcing an exciting new public awareness campaign that is sure to make a splash during Melanoma Awareness Month. The “It’s THAT Worth It” campaign uses powerful messages from L’Oréal Paris spokespeople to raise awareness of the dangers of melanoma and to encourage women to protect their skin daily with sunscreen. The campaign is part of an ongoing collaboration between MRA and L’Oréal Paris that is funding a $750,000 Team Science Award. You can read more about the campaign’s unique “Thunderclap” social media component below.
MRA’s Science Team recently traveled to the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in San Diego, Calif., where more than 35 MRA-supported investigators were featured, and several researchers from the MRA family were honored. The news from the conference continues to point to more progress for melanoma patients through immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and novel combination approaches. Especially gratifying is the knowledge that this progress is also leading the way to better treatment options for people suffering from a variety of other diseases.
We are truly making great strides against melanoma, but your support is vital to helping us sustain and leverage these advances. All of us at MRA remain grateful for your ongoing support.
Wendy K.D. Selig
President and CEO
Melanoma Research Progress Featured at AACR Annual Meeting
MRA’s Science Team recently attended the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual meeting in San Diego, Calif. More than 35 MRA-supported researchers were featured at the meeting, which spanned four days and drew 18,000 of the world’s leading cancer researchers and others from the cancer research community. MRA Medical Advisory Panel member and grant recipient Dr. Jedd Wolchok was honored with the AACR-Rosenthal Foundation Memorial Award at the meeting’s opening ceremony. Dr. Wolchok is Chief of Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service and Associate Director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. James Allison of MD Anderson Cancer Center and Dr. Levi Garraway of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute were also honored at the meeting. MRA’s full statement on the meeting can be read here.
MRA Young Investigators Publish High-Impact Translational Research
Novel CTLA-4 immune pathway described, potential immunotherapy target identified
Immunotherapies have shown great promise in melanoma and other cancers as demonstrated by so-called immune checkpoint inhibitors such as the FDA-approved agent ipilimumab. Ipilimumab targets the CTLA-4 checkpoint, which act as “brakes” on the immune system, thereby engaging it to attack the cancer. However, the immune system is highly complex and several mechanisms reduce the effectiveness of ipilimumab and other immunotherapies. One of these is the activity of regulatory T cells (Tregs), which are involved in shutting down the immune response of cells that help to kill the tumor. Tregs also express CTLA-4, but how it operates in Tregs was largely unknown. A new study led by MRA Young Investigator Kok-Fai Kong of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology publi shed in Nature Immunology described the signaling pathway involving CTLA-4 in Tregs and, as a result, identified a novel drug target. Kong demonstrated that CTLA-4 interacts with a molecule called PKC-eta and that this interaction was critical for the function of Tregs. In a melanoma mouse model, Kong showed that Tregs without PKC-eta resulted in reduced tumor growth. These findings suggest that anti-tumor responses could be boosted when this pathway is interrupted and establish the foundation for exploring combinatorial approaches targeting PKC-eta with ipilimumab and other therapies.
Drugs show promise in blocking melanoma metastasis
Melanoma is most curable if detected early before it spreads, or metastasizes, throughout the body. Understanding how cells disseminate from a primary tumor to distant organs is critical to developing interventions that block metastasis and prevent relapse. Interferon-alpha is the only FDA-approved melanoma adjuvant therapy, and this remains a high unmet need for melanoma patients. A recent study published in Cell by MRA Young Investigator Sohail Tavazoie of Rockefeller University suggests a new therapeutic means to slow or prevent melanoma metastasis. This study points to a protein called the liver-X nuclear receptor (LXR-beta, a nuclear hormone receptor) as a therapeutic target in melanoma and showed that drugs targeting it suppressed tumor growth and metastasis in preclinical studies. Th ey also assessed the mechanistic basis for LXR-beta targeting. In addition, they observed increased anti-cancer effects when combined with other melanoma drugs including B-Raf inhibition and anti-CTLA-4 therapy. This study supports additional investigation into this therapeutic approach in melanoma.
EVENTS AND ALLIANCES
MRA and L’Oréal Paris Launch Thunderclap Campaign to Raise Melanoma Awareness
MRA and L’Oréal Paris recently announced the launch of a unique social media campaign as part of an ongoing collaboration which includes melanoma awareness initiatives as well as an MRA Team Science Award. Social media users can join the “It’s THAT Worth It” Thunderclap Campaign, which will send a synchronized message of melanoma awareness out through every participant’s Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts on May 20th. This message will help raise awareness and make a larger impact across social media than any one person or company could hope to do alone. As part of the campaign, L'Oréal Paris will make a donation to MRA of $1 for each supporter who signs up for the Thunderclap and $1 for each L’Oréal Paris Advanced Suncare product sold in the U.S. – up to $250,000 in 2014. We encourage you to join the Thunderclap and lend your social reach to defeating melanoma! Click here to sign up today.
Sports Authority Launches Consumer-Facing Campaign to Support MRA
For the fourth consecutive year, Sports Authority is launching an in-store donation and consumer awareness program to raise funds for MRA’s research program and to help educate customers on ways to reduce their risk of melanoma. During May, consumers across the nation will be asked by cashiers if they would like to round their purchase total up to the nearest dollar to support MRA. Sports Authority stores will also feature awareness collateral including educational brochures and signage to educate customers on the dangers of melanoma and offer sun protection tips.
American Idol® Live! Tour 2014 Partners with MRA
MRA is partnering with the American Idol® Live! Tour 2014 this summer to generate melanoma and skin cancer awareness and financial support for MRA’s research program. For every ticket purchased for the Tour, American Idol® Live! will donate $1 to MRA. The Tour kicks off June 24 in Binghamton, NY and will hit 40 different cities across the U.S. throughout the summer. Tickets go on sale beginning May 9th at www.AmericanIdol.com/tour.
American Idol & related indicia: ®/© 19 TV Ltd. and FremantleMedia North America, Inc. 2014. All Rights Reserved. www.americanidol.com
MRA Gears Up for Melanoma Awareness Month
With Melanoma Awareness Month fast approaching, MRA is working to make an increased impact during the month. We hope to engage our many corporate partners to help spread melanoma awareness and raise funds for our critical melanoma research programs. In preparation for all of our May activities and messaging, we encourage everyone to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Don’t miss out on partner-sponsored giveaways, new MRA videos, and the chance to help fight melanoma!
OUTREACH AND VISIBILITY
MRA Featured in Washington Post Article on New Sunscreen Bill
MRA has been leading the efforts of the Public Access to SunScreens (PASS) Coalition to draft and introduce a bill to fix the FDA’s sunscreen ingredient approval process. After the legislation was introduced last month, a quote from MRA’s CEO and President appeared in an article that ran on the front page of the Washington Post. MRA’s comments on this issue have also been featured in Congressional Quarterly (CQ) as well as in interviews with media outlets from Long Island and Los Angeles.
New Survivor Story Added to MRA Website
Patient #1 melanoma blogger and advocate T.J. Sharpe shares his story on the MRA website this month. T.J. reflects on his experience receiving a diagnosis of stage IV melanoma and subsequently participating in clinical trials. Two years later, he is proving his oncologist wrong and says that with all the recent advances in research, now might be the “best” time to get melanoma. Read the rest of his story here.
MRA Participates on Panel at PhRMA Annual Meeting
MRA’s President and CEO recently participated in the annual meeting of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Wendy Selig spoke on a panel titled “The Promise of Science and the Pipeline: It Takes An Ecosystem,” where she discussed MRA’s unique role in accelerating better options for patients and the organization’s collaborations with industry. The panel included speakers from industry, finance, like-minded nonprofits, as well as government agencies. She also delivered a brief video interview on MRA’s participation in the meeting that can be watched here.
Chief Science Officer Represents MRA at Industry Meetings
Dr. Louise M. Perkins presented MRA’s approach to partnerships with academia, industry, and FDA at the 2nd Annual Sachs Cancer Bio Partnering & Investment Forum in New York City last month. She also attended the members meeting of the Health Research Alliance, a group that fosters collaboration among not-for-profit, non-governmental funders to support the continuum of health research and training.
MRA Supporter Speaks at American Cancer Society Immunotherapy Briefing on Capitol Hill
Melanoma and MRA were featured at a recent Capitol Hill briefing on the promise of immunotherapy for cancer and the importance of sustained federal funding for cancer research sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Melanoma patient and MRA supporter Rusty Cline spoke about his battle with melanoma and urged lawmakers to ensure a robust level of federal funding for cancer research.
Congress Considers The Sunscreen Innovation Act
MRA and the Public Access to SunScreen (PASS) Coalition have been advocating for an enhanced sunscreen ingredient approval process to expedite safety and efficacy review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of innovative products. A new sunscreen ingredient has not been approved in the U.S. since 1999, despite the fact that consumers in other countries have access to new formulations and ingredients not available in the U.S. Last month, the Sunscreen Innovation Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill was introduced in Congress. As part of the bill’s review, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on the bill, where Wendy Selig testified on behalf of the PASS Coalition. Her written testimony is available here and a video of the hearing can be seen here. MRA will continue to advocate for the bill as it moves through the legislative process and will be sure to keep you updated on its progress.
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