Letter from the President
As 2012 draws to a close we are reflecting on the tremendous progress that has occurred in the field of melanoma research, thanks to the extraordinary dedication and hard work of the scientists, clinicians and allies in the fight against this all disease. The momentum and enthusiasm in the scientific community is palpable. At every scientific meeting throughout the year and in all the major scientific journals, evidence of the progress being made in discovery is all around us. At the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), we see reason for hope thanks to the accelerated pace of the science. New treatments are available to patients and others are showing potential in clinical trials, offering more options to prevent suffering and death from advanced melanoma. Additionally there is progress in the areas of prevention and early detection so more people can avoid late stage disease.
We continue to be grateful for the support and collaborative engagement we have received from individual donors, our foundation partners, corporate allies and government stakeholders. In the past year, this spirit of collaboration has been evident in everything we have done and all we have accomplished.
Among the highlights of this year:
Our Fourth Annual Scientific Retreat, bringing together almost 200 stakeholders across sectors for a highly interactive, think-tank style meeting.
Dramatic expansion of our Allies programs, engaging more than 90 collaborations with nonprofit, corporate, industry and media stakeholders in a variety of outreach and engagement campaigns.
The launch of a pioneering collaboration with Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) centered around a Melanoma Dream Team research project and a multi-faceted Public Service Announcement campaign featuring actress Laura Linney.
A record number of grant proposals received and our milestone 5th year of award funding, bringing cumulative funding total to more than $38 million for 96 projects.
MRA held several highly successful events, including our Second Benefit Dinner at Sotheby's, and the unique Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma event, which is becoming an annual event.
All of us at MRA wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and look forward to continuing our work together in the New Year. Thank you for all you do.
These highlights are all described in further detail in our 2011 - 2012 Progress Report.
Acting President and CEO
News and Outreach
DERMASCOPE: The Importance of Early Detection of Melanoma
Marnie B. Nussbaum, M.D., F.A.A.D., and MRA's Clinical Dermatology Advisory penned a piece for DERMASCOPE magazine on early detection of melanoma. As a practicing dermatologist, Dr. Nussbaum is detecting these cancers in younger and younger patients who are visiting the office for reasons other than a full body skin check. Read the DERMASCOPE piece.
MRA Welcomes Two New Medical Advisory Panel Members
Susan M. Swetter, M.D. Professor of Dermatology Director, Pigmented Lesion & Melanoma Program Stanford University Medical Center and Cancer Institute
Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D. Director, Melanoma and Cutaneous Oncology Program, Huntsman Cancer Institute Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Utah
Friends of Cancer Research/Brookings Institution Briefing
Wendy Selig had the opportunity to represent MRA on a panel highlighting 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. The panel focused 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." Panelists included:
Charles L. Sawyers, Chair, Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Daniel A. Haber, Director, Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Sandra J. Horning, Senior Vice President, Global Head, Clinical Development Hematology/Oncology, Genentech
S. Percy Ivy, Associate Branch Chief, Investigational Drug Branch, CTEP, NCI
Partnering for Cures
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. Panelists included:
Alberto Gutierrez, Ph.D., Director, Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Food and Drug Administration
David Parkinson, M.D., Venture Partner, New Enterprise Associates
Michael Pellini, M.D., President and CEO, Foundation Medicine
Jeffrey Trent, Ph.D., President and Research Director, The Translational Genomics Research Institute
Sean Tunis, M.D., Director, Center for Medical Technology Policy
Cartier hosted a beautiful reception and dinner in New York City in honor of MRA. MRA Chief Science Officer Suzanne Topalian spoke about progress made in melanoma research over the past few years and the urgency to continue to support translational advances in the field. We would like to extend our warm thanks to Cartier for hosting this successful event and being a vital partner.
Survivor's Story: Jaime Grimes
In July, Jamie went to the annual dermatologist's appointment to have her entire body checked for cancerous moles. Once a year, Jamie puts on a paper hospital gown, and her dermatologist dons magnifying goggles and examines every mole she has. Read Jamie's story.
Highlights of the Society for Melanoma Research Annual Meeting 2012
Melanoma research and clinical advances were a highlight of the recent Society for Melanoma Research meeting in Los Angeles. Eighteen MRA-funded investigators and advisors presented exciting new findings and led key sessions at the meeting. MRA's Chief Science Officer, Suzanne Topalian, presented updated information about the Phase 1 trial results of Anti-PD-1. Promising data on additional compounds was also presented. For more information, click here.
MRA-Stand Up to Cancer Update
On December 3, MRA joined SU2C, American Association for Cancer Research, and the MRA-SU2C review committee for the pioneering Melanoma Dream Team's six month progress meeting at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix. Dream Team scientific leaders highlighted their work to date to develop new therapeutic approaches for BRAF "wild type" melanoma patients. This groundbreaking clinical program will not only develop new leads for melanoma but may serve as a model for personalized medicine studies in other cancers as well. For more information,
United for Medical Research Info graphic: Fiscal Cliff Puts Medical Research in Jeopardy
MRA is pleased to be a member of UMR, a coalition of nonprofit, academic and industry organizations focused on support for NIH research. UMR recently released an info graphic highlighting how cuts to NIH scheduled for January 2013 will disrupt medical research in the United States, harming our health and our economy. Read more.
Letter from the President
As large portions of the country continue to recover from the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, here at the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) we send our thoughts and best wishes to everyone affected by the storm.
Our mission of finding a cure for melanoma continues to guide our work each and every day. This month MRA releases its 2011 – 2012 Progress Report. The report puts into perspective all that has been accomplished over the last year and where we are headed in capitalizing on the progress in prevention, detection, and treatment of deadly skin cancer. Recent developments, fueled by the hard work and dedication of MRA-funded investigators and innovative collaborations with our allies, have brought the field closer to making this goal a reality.
With our 2013 Grant cycle underway, MRA is gratified by the tremendous energy and enthusiasm emanating from the research and clinical communities in response to our Request For Proposals. We are pleased to be offering at least $7 million in new grants for this cycle, to be awarded next Spring after a rigorous peer review process. Our efforts to engage new people and organizations in this fight will be geared toward generating even more support for ground-breaking research to ensure that the most impactful projects can move forward. Thanks to the ongoing help and support of our donors and allies, we are capitalizing on the momentum and charting the course toward a cure for melanoma.
Acting President and CEO
News and Outreach
Forbes highlights Debra and Leon Black’s work in launching MRA
When Debra Black noticed a growth on the bottom of her foot, she quickly showed it to her dermatologist. The wife of private equity billionaire Leon Black, had had the earliest form of skin cancer seven years before, so she diligently went for screenings every few months. Her doctor, one of New York City’s top-rated dermatologists, told her not to worry, that it was just a plantar wart. He froze it off. It came back. He cut it off. It came back. It hurt and eventually bled. For four years, her doctor insisted it was nothing. Read the story.
Extra TV features MRA with SU2C in new campaign
MRA is working with SU2C and developing a series of reports on melanoma with melanoma survivor Jerry Penacoli from Extra TV, with the first segment airing on October 11. Melanoma research and MRA were also featured prominently during the SU2C live telecast with a moving segment about Dr. Pat LoRusso (co leader of the Melanoma Dream Team) and her patient, Hillary Kind. Watch the Extra TV clip.
In Memoriam: Hillary Kind
The Melanoma Research Alliance is deeply saddened at the passing of Hillary Kind, a courageous woman whose battle with melanoma was brought to the world's attention through a moving segment on the September 7 2012 Stand Up To Cancer telecast. MRA leadership is honored to have met Hillary and her wonderful family at that event. Her brave and gracious fight, working with Dr. Pat LoRusso, co-leader of the MRA-SU2C Melanoma Dream Team, underscores for all of us the importance of our work to bring better outcomes to all those who face melanoma.
MRA teams up with WebMD
MRA is teaming up with WebMD Health Corp. the leading source of health information, with the launch of WebMD Answers. This program allows consumers to ask personal health questions on a variety of topics, including melanoma, in a trusted environment. WebMD Answers’ Q&As are contextually integrated throughout the WebMD experience as well as through WebMD Search, so that consumers can now access information from leading health experts, organizations, and other consumers when they need it. Visit Answers.
Survivor Story: Timna Understein
In May 2008 I went in to have a tiny, dark, dot on the bottom on my right foot removed. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered hearing that if you have a freckle on the bottom of your foot; it's not a good thing. I went in, had it taken off, and was told to have a good weekend. The next week I got a phone call from a nurse, my path report came back and it was melanoma. Read Timna’s Survivor Story.
Last month, 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.
Redhead pigment may play direct role in melanoma development
It is known that individuals with red hair and fair skin are at a higher risk for melanoma. A study released on-line this week in Nature led by David Fisher of the Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that pheomelanin pigment, which gives rise to red hair, plays a potential direct role in the cancer’s development. This study was partially funded by a 2008 MRA Established Investigator Award. Using a “redhead” mouse model, Dr. Fisher and his colleagues found that before they exposed the mice to UV rays, about half of them spontaneously developed invasive melanoma. Hinting at a possible mechanism, higher levels of DNA damage caused by reactive oxygen species were also found in the skin of red mice. While UV remains an important risk factor for melanoma, these unexpected findings points to a new avenue for researchers to develop agents for melanoma prevention, such as antioxidants designed to interfere with these harmful cellular processes.
Combination of targeted therapies shows improvement over monotherapy
Results of a Phase I/II study evaluating a treatment regimen combining a BRAF inhibitor with a MEK inhibitor in patients with BRAF mutant metastatic melanoma published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine by Keith Flaherty, Massachusetts General Hospital, and others. The combination delayed the development of drug resistance, which is a key concern in the use of molecularly targeted agents. After one year of treatment, 41% of patients receiving combination treatment had no progression of their cancer, compared with only 9% of patients receiving the BRAF inhibitor alone. Dr. Flaherty is part of a 2010 MRA-funded Team Science effort to identify resistance mechanisms to BRAF inhibition with the goal of discovering new drug targets and combinatorial therapy approaches such as this. It is only through the understanding of the biological basis for resistance can new rational drug regimens be designed. Learn more about the MRA-funded research, “Studies on the mechanism(s) of de novo and acquired resistance to selective RAF inhibition,” on the MRA website.
Young Investigator Award and Partnership Award applications due November 15
This is a reminder that MRA still has two research funding opportunities open for applications. Proposals for the MRA Young Investigator Awards the Academic-Industrial Partnership Awards are due Thursday, November 15. For more information about these mechanisms, read the MRA Request for Proposals.
Help spread the message that Time=Lives
Medical research MUST be a national priority. That's the message of a social media campaign, Time Equals Lives, launched by FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute and affiliated with MRA. Anchored in the operating principle that to save lives we must save time in medical research - the way we search for discoveries, turn these discoveries into therapies, and bring these therapies to patients - this campaign makes a compelling statement about why we must invest in research. A growing bank of personal stories explain in real terms why research matters and together creates a powerful imperative to make research a national priority. FasterCures’ goal is to share these stories with policy leaders and decision makers whose work can chart the future course for our research system. To get involved:
Letter from the President
Labor Day is quickly approaching and beach season is winding down for many of us. Incidence of melanoma continues to rise and we want to remind people to take steps to protect their skin year-round from the dangers of sun exposure – regardless of age, race, or ethnicity. Throughout the year, MRA works with our allies to spread the word about protecting skin from UV exposure and staying vigilant about recognizing changes in their skin.
MRA just announced the release of its 2012-2013 Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP is available on the MRA website. MRA plans to support at least $7 million in new funding for Young Investigator Awards, Academic-Industrial Partnership Awards, Team Science Awards, and Special Opportunity Awards during the 2012-2013 grant cycle. With this grant cycle, MRA will have awarded more than $45 million in melanoma research.
In September, MRA will take part in Stand Up 2 Cancer’s (SU2C) third primetime television fundraising special on Friday, Sept. 7 (8:00-9:00 PM ET /PT). SU2C will dedicate a segment to the progress made in melanoma research and will highlight MRA as one of SU2C first collaborative research projects with the SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team. Read the SU2C press release.
Just a reminder to follow us on Twitter @melanomarealli and Facebook. Together, we are spreading the word about the progress that has been made in melanoma and the work that lies ahead until we reach the day when no one suffers or dies from melanoma.
Acting President and CEO
News and Outreach
Oncology Times Showcases April 2012 MRA Grant Recipients
The July 10 issue of Oncology times featured a spotlight piece highlighting the 22 research grants awarded in April. MRA has awarded more than $38 million to 97 research programs to make transforming advances in the prevention, diagnosis, staging, and treatment of melanoma. Find out more.
Melanoma of the Skin: Protect Yourself. Reduce Your Risk. Take Action. info graph
MRA continued to expand its social media presence with the release this summer of our melanoma info graph. The “Melanoma of the Skin: Reduce Your Risk. Protect Yourself. Take Action.” info Graph has been shared more than 500 times by Facebook users to their networks and seen by more than 125,000. Take action by sharing with your networks on Facebook.
New melanoma driver genes found in largest DNA sequencing study to date
Yale Cancer Center geneticists, biochemists, and structural biologists have painted the most comprehensive picture yet of the molecular landscape of melanoma. This study, partially supported by a 2009 MRA Team Science Award, led by Ruth Halaban at Yale University, used powerful DNA sequencing technologies to examine 147 melanomas originating from both sun-exposed and sun-shielded sites. To read more about these recent findings, see “New melanoma driver genes found in largest DNA sequencing study to date” or read the article in Nature Genetics.
Survivor Story – Jerilyn Herris
A life-long California beach addict, Jerilyn Herris grew up tanning her fair English-Irish skin to the right shade of golden brown. Jerilyn loved the sun and any sport or activity that got her out in it and skin protection was never a thought. Each year, as soon as the weather warmed, Jerilyn would hit the surf or the pool and suffered through blistering sun burns, as my skin tried to shield itself, in her quest for the perfect tan. Read her survivor story.
Letter from the President
Our work continues as we build upon the progress in the scientific community as well as the momentum created by Melanoma Awareness Month and our robust array of alliances aimed at raising awareness and support for melanoma research.
MRA continues to expand its reach through summer promotions and campaigns with many of our allies. Throughout June and July, MRA continued collaborations with Montage and COOLA to raise funds for melanoma research and increase skin cancer awareness at Montage Deer Valley through a special spa offering. Hess convenience stores are promoting a sun safety and melanoma awareness and education campaign, and for the next two months Vineyard Vines will be donating proceeds from their sun safety kits to MRA.
At its Fourth Annual Scientific Retreat earlier this year in Washington, DC, MRA hosted discussions of cutting-edge melanoma research results and key policy issues. MRA-funded investigators, including early career scientists, established investigators, and interdisciplinary teams, reported on the progress of their work. MRA recently published the report, "Building on the Momentum: Charting the Course," summarizing highlights of the 2012 meeting, underscoring the momentum that has occurred due to recent research breakthroughs and opportunities for charting a new course in the fight against melanoma. We have begun planning for MRA’s Fifth Annual Retreat, to be held early next year.
As always, we are grateful for the continued support of so many people and organizations that are joining in our mission to defeat melanoma. We encourage everyone to help spread the word about melanoma and promote skin cancer prevention. Please continue to reduce your risk, protect yourself, and take action.
Acting President and CEO
MRA collaborated with Tourneau and Patek Philippe in Costa Mesa, California
MRA collaborated with Tourneau and Patek Philippe on the boutique opening at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California. The event marked the opening of the first freestanding Patek Philippe store on the West Coast and helped to raise melanoma awareness while a portion of funds from all sales for the week will support MRA's research program. We are grateful for Tourneau's ongoing support and engagement with our work.
News and Outreach
MRA Applauds New York State on New Tanning Bed Law
In mid-July, New York State enacted legislation to curb the use of indoor tanning beds by young people. These devices, which have been labeled by international health authorities as class 1 carcinogens, pose a known and significant health threat, especially to young people. Indoor tanning is clearly associated with increased risk for all skin cancers including deadly melanoma. Tanning beds emit both UVA and UVB radiation, both of which damage skin cells, causing skin cancer and premature skin aging. Read MRA's statement
DermaScope featured The Science of Prevention by MRA’s Laura Brockway Lunardi
Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is now one of the fastest growing cancers among young people. Scientific research is now beginning to uncover key insights about the biology of the skin and how it responds to UV radiation on a cellular basis, as well as identifying genetic risk factors that make people more susceptible to skin cancer. Read the full article.
Bloomberg News reported on efforts of Leon and Debra Black to battle melanoma
Co-founders of MRA, Leon Black, Apollo Global Management CEO, and Debra Black joined Bloomberg's Stephanie Ruhle to talk about MRA, the advancements made in melanoma cancer research and the need for funding to match medical research advancements. Watch the interview.
Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C): The State of the Fight of Skin Cancer
Kim Margolin, M.D., MRA grantee and member of the Medical Advisory Panel and Grant Review Committee is featured in SU2C’s The State of the Fight, a series of articles by those on the front lines of cancer treatment. The article teases out myths from facts and reports on breakthroughs in the field of melanoma. Read the article.
Survivor Stories: Jerry Penacoli
On January 12, 2011, correspondent Jerry Penacoli revealed on Extra! that he had been diagnosed with Stage III melanoma, and he documented his fight through a powerful video diary. A strange mole that went unchecked for some time ended up turning into a life-threatening skin cancer for Jerry. "Two surgeries later I ended up with one nasty infection, stuck in the hospital with a 104-degree fever, on intravenous antibiotics," said Penacoli, who is now cancer free. Read his survivor story.
Panel and Committee Update
MRA would like to welcome the following members to the Science Advisory Panel, Medical Advisory Panel, and the Grant Review Committee:
Science Advisory Panel - Full Panel
• Christopher Austin, M.D., National Institute of Health
Medical Advisory Panel - Full Panel
• Pat LoRusso, D.O., Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
Grant Review Committee - Full Committee
• Glenn Dranoff, M.D., Dana Farber Cancer Center – New Chair
• David Solit, M.D., Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center – New Co-Chair
• Martin McMahon, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
• Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
• Caroline Robert, M.D., Ph.D., Institute Gustave Roussy
• Lynn Schuchter, M.D., University of Pennsylvania
Science Daily: Scientists Discover Melanoma-Driving Genetic Changes Caused by Sun Damage
Scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have identified six genes with driving mutations in melanoma, three of which have recurrent ‘hotspot’ mutations as a result of damage inflicted by UV light. MRA Investigator Lynda Chin of MD Anderson Cancer Center says this research is significant because, “it is the first genomic evidence directly linking damage from UV light to melanoma.” The six new melanoma genes identified by the team are all significantly mutated and provide potential targets for new treatments. This research was partially supported by MRA. Read more about this innovative work.
INFORMED (INternet curriculum FOR Melanoma Early Detection)
Through the support of a 2009 MRA Team Science Award led by Dr, Martin Weinstock of Rhode Island Hospital , the INFORMED (INternet curriculum FOR Melanoma Early Detection) program was developed to provide a Web-based early detection training program available for widespread use that is grounded in the realities of primary care delivery, and which includes a deep image database. INFORMED is transforming melanoma education by engaging the learner. In addition, the INFORMED program provides training in dermoscopy, which has been proven to increase diagnostic accuracy during the skin examination. Empowering primary care physicians to participate in melanoma detection. Access the Program.
Does Skin Cancer Screening Save Lives?
Screening has the ability to improve prognosis by detecting melanoma at earlier stages. In 2008, the German government implemented population-wide skin cancer screening after a successful pilot study in Schleswig-Holstein as described by Alexander Katalinic of the University of Lubeck. The pilot program involved more than 360,000 people aged 20 years or older, who were screened by whole body examination. Findings now reveal that melanoma mortality was cut in half in the geographic region that initially participated in a pilot program that began in 2003. This decrease in melanoma mortality for both men and women was significantly greater than what occurred in other areas of Germany that did not have the screening program. This study has several implications for considering screening programs in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Letter from the President
Momentum in melanoma research continues as exciting new advancements were just announced at the landmark 2012 ASCO meeting in Chicago June 1-5. ASCO's Annual Meeting is attended by about 30,000 cancer physicians, scientists, advocates and representatives of industry and philanthropy. Many researchers supported by the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) presented and led sessions discussing these new findings. Among the breakthrough advancements, were positive results from Phase-1 clinical trials of experimental drugs aimed at restoring the immune system's ability to spot and attack melanoma, and data on innovative combinatorial strategies for targeted therapies. These approaches have benefited from millions of dollars of funding from MRA. Read MRA's ASCO press release.
May was Melanoma Awareness Month and it offered an important opportunity for MRA and our allies to advance our mission of reducing suffering and death from deadly skin cancer. We are grateful to all our May allies that helped us highlight the dangers of melanoma, educate the public on ways to reduce risk, and share opportunities for people to take action. During the month MRA reached almost a half million Facebook users as a result of the campaigns we conducted in collaboration with our allies. We increased our Facebook fan base by 22 percent and saw our allies and followers actively tweeting and retweeting melanoma awareness messages on Twitter throughout the month, with over a 30 percent increase in our followers. Other highlights include MRA's visibility being featured as an AOL Homepage: Daily Impact Unit & AOL Impact Site and the coverage our efforts with Bergdorf Goodman received in Vanity Fair. Though May has ended, our goal is to raise awareness and to encourage everyone to take the steps necessary to reduce risk for melanoma all year long.
In addition to helping us raise the profile of melanoma education and awareness, our efforts throughout May included important activities to engage people in MRA's work and generate much-needed resources to fund lifesaving research. In addition to a series of events with Bergdorf Goodman, Dior, and Montage Hotels, our allies at Claire's, The Sports Authority, SkinCeuticals and Equinox implemented promotion campaigns on behalf of melanoma research. MRA also hosted its second bi-annual benefit dinner at Sotheby's, in New York City, raising approximately $5 million for our research program. And, approximately 650 people came together at the first-ever Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma event in New York City, raising more than $750,000 for MRA.
There is so much happening in the melanoma field - and we value your continued friendship, guidance and support as we work together to defeat this deadly disease.
Thank you for your ongoing engagement with MRA.
Acting President and CEO
Some of the best known 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, hosted by Jeffrey Rowbottom of KKR and Brendan Dillon of UBS, as well as the rest of the host committee. The evening raised approximately $750,000 to support MRA's research program.
Watch Bloomberg's interview with Jeffrey Rowbottom and Brendan Dillon on their efforts to raise money for melanoma research.
MRA hosted its second bi-annual benefit dinner at Sotheby's in New York City, raising approximately $5 million. 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. Alexander 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 joined with Bergdorf Goodman to promote awareness and raise funds for Melanoma Awareness Month and melanoma research. We kicked off a 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. During the entire month of May, several beauty brands and Bergdorf Goodman conducted a range of activities to engage their customers, create awareness and raise funds for MRA.
Read more on the alliance in Vanity Fair.
More information and highlights from all three events.
News & Outreach
Use of indoor tanning devices is a known and significant health threat, especially to young people, as they are clearly associated with increased risk for all skin cancers including deadly melanoma. Researchers confirmed that those who had tanned indoors had a 74% increased risk of melanoma, and this risk increased with greater years of use, number of sessions or total hours of use. Read the statement.
MRA was featured as an AOL Homepage: Daily Impact Unit & AOL Impact Site, seen by 12.4 million daily AOL users. AOL Homepage Daily Impact reserves a portion of the AOL.com homepage to feature a different cause everyday of the year, while the Impact Site provides a consistent landing page to permanently house every Daily Impact unit. Visit MRA's Impact Site.
MRA has supported legislation introduced by Rep. Brian Bilbray (CA), the Melanoma Research Act of 2012. The legislation would establish a Skin Cancer Research Fund within the National Institutes of Health to advance research efforts to combat deadly skin cancer at a time of incredible opportunity in the field. Read MRA's letter.
This June and July MRA will team up with Montage and Coola to raise funds for melanoma research and increase skin cancer awareness at Montage Deer Valley. The spa will be offering sun safe facials as part of their spa menu - providing sun safety tips and sun damage feedback during the treatment. MRA will receive 10% of proceeds and guests will receive a full size Coola sunscreen at check out.
On June 27 Tourneau and Patek Philippe will host a reception for the Grand Opening of the Patek Philippe Corner at South Coast Plaza benefiting the Melanoma Research Alliance. Tourneau will donate 15% of the proceeds from the evening to Melanoma Research Alliance. If you will be in the area and would like to attend the event, please contact Lauren Leiman at email@example.com.
Other Science News
A recent whole genome sequencing study published in Nature and carried out by MRA-funded researchers Levi Garraway of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Lynda Chin of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, along with their collaborators revealed genetic alterations never before described in melanoma. One of these included alterations in a gene called PREX2, which has been recently shown to modulate the function of the tumor suppressor PTEN. The researchers demonstrated that altered PREX2 promoted tumor growth in mice. This study also confirmed previous findings that sun exposure is associated with a greater number of genetic mutations, further supporting the role of ultraviolet radiation in the development of melanoma. Genome sequencing offers one way for scientists to describe new insights into biological pathways disrupted in cancer and uncover new targets for drug development. To read more about these recent findings, see Study links genes to melanoma development and the publication, Melanoma genome sequencing reveals frequent PREX2 mutations.
Timothy Bullock of the University of Virginia chose to pursue melanoma research because melanoma is a challenge. "The immune system appears to recognize melanoma since immune cells are present in it, yet the disease progresses," he says. With funding from the MRA, his work focuses on figuring out why that happens with the goal of developing new treatment approaches to boost the immune system against cancer. To read more about Dr. Bullock and his innovative research, visit MRA Researcher Stories on our Web site.
Letter from the President
The past few weeks have been eventful for the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), with the announcement of our latest round of research grants and efforts to launch into Melanoma Awareness Month on May 1. The 2012 MRA Individual Investigator Awards, along with MRA’s commitment to the MRA-Stand Up To Cancer Melanoma Dream Team bring MRA’s five-year funding total for translational melanoma research to more than $38 million.
For Melanoma Awareness Month, MRA has teamed up with more than two dozen of our allies to highlight the dangers of melanoma, educate the public about how to reduce risk, and offer opportunities to take action. The five weeks in May will each have a melanoma awareness theme, and each theme will include Facebook posts and Tweets developed to encourage people that while they are active outdoors, they should be knowledgeable about the dangers of the sun and keep themselves and their loved ones safe when it comes to UV exposure.
Our plans for May include: a recent segment on the Martha Stewart Show; a blog series on melanoma awareness presented by Bergdorf Goodman; fund raising events hosted by Christie’s and Sotheby’s; a series of public service announcements on Sirius XM Radio and the Style Network; an AOL home page cause module on May 17, and numerous other events designed to engage more individuals and organizations in the fight against melanoma.
MRA is grateful to our allies for their continued support in our fight against melanoma and active collaboration toward our common goal of defeating melanoma. Please visit the MRA homepage regularly as we highlight our May activities throughout the month. Collaboration -- from partnerships with foundations and donors funding research grants to alliances with companies who are helping to raise awareness about the dangers of melanoma -- remains at the core of our activities for May and throughout the year.
Acting President and CEO
MRA awards $4.9 million in research grants to investigators at 22 labs to develop improved means to prevent, detect and treat deadly skin cancer
Last week, MRA announced 22 researchers at leading academic institutions around the world have been awarded research grants to develop improved means to prevent, detect and treat deadly skin cancer. This latest round of awards brings the total awarded by MRA in its five year history to more than $38 million, provided to 134 investigators at 65 institutions in 10 countries. MRA directs 100% of all public donations it receives to research. Read the press release.
MRA’s Co Founder Debra Black appears on The Martha Stewart Show
MRA kicked off Melanoma Awareness Month with a live appearance by MRA’s co founder Debra Black and Dr. Allan Halpern, chief of dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and MRA awardee, on The Martha Stewart Show on April 23. Their segment focused on melanoma awareness and the goals of MRA. Visit The Martha Stewart Show to see highlights.
Progress in melanoma highlighted at 2012 AACR meeting
Wendy Selig, President & CEO, and Suzanne Topalian, M.D., Chief Science Officer of the Melanoma Research Alliance, were among the speakers at this year’s annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), held March 31- April 4 in Chicago. Read more on MRA at the AACR Annual meeting.
MRA featured in Cancernetwork.com on the threat facing NIH research funding
Wendy Selig, president and CEO of the Melanoma Research Alliance, was interviewed at this month’s American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting on AACR’s efforts to encourage Congress to make research funding a higher national priority and raise public awareness of the importance of continued investment in cancer research. To read the full story click here.
MRA Releases Statement on the Mayo Clinic’s Study Concerning the Increasing Incidence of Melanoma
Mayo Clinic's findings contribute to the growing body of knowledge on the increasing incidence of melanoma among young adults. The MRA is deeply concerned with the rising incidence of skin cancer, and particularly melanoma, among young people. We support efforts to create greater awareness of the seriousness of this disease and the dangers of tanning beds along with greater action to protect youth from this known health danger. Watch the TODAY Show’s medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman talk about the Mayo Clinic study.
MRA at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference
MRA is hosting a panel on Tuesday, May 1 at 2:30pm. The panel, “Cancer Prevention: What Will it Take?” will focus on how cancer prevention can only be successful when combining lifestyle changes with early medical intervention. The panel will include: Stephen Gruber, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center; Sherry Lansing, The Sherry Lansing Foundation; Sancy Leachman, Huntsman Cancer Institute; and J. Leonard Litchenfeld, American Cancer Society. The session will be moderated by MRA President and CEO Wendy Selig. Visit the Global Conference website for more information and post session video.
MRA funded team provides new insights into how the immune system may aid melanoma growth
Described in a recent study, a MRA-funded team including Drew Pardoll and Suzanne Topalian of Johns Hopkins University and Lieping Chen at Yale University revealed how the body’s immune response may trigger its own inhibition, which protects melanoma cells from destruction. The researchers focused on a specific immune-inhibiting molecule called B7-H1 that is expressed by some melanoma tumors. Their findings suggest a new immune escape mechanism whereby T cells secrete the inflammatory factor (interferon-gamma), driving the expression of B7-H1 by tumors, resulting in immune suppression and tumor growth. Understanding how the immune system responds to melanoma is critical to developing new and better immunotherapies to treat this disease. To read more about this MRA award, visit the MRA website. To read more about these findings, see, “Immune system turning itself on may trigger melanoma growth” or read the article abstract.
MRA young investigator leads study that produces unexpected findings about drug resistance in BRAF-mutant melanoma
Roger Lo at UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center, recipient of a MRA Young Investigator Award and PI of a Team Science Award, and his collaborators, which include Toni Ribas at UCLA, Jeffrey Sosman of Vanderbilt University, and Ruth Halaban of Yale University discovered that despite what scientists originally thought, a mutation in MEK1 does not seem to contribute to resistance to BRAF inhibitor therapy. This study found that some patients’ tumors have concurrent MEK1 and BRAF mutations, and they respond to BRAF-inhibitors just as well as patients with only the BRAF mutation. Identifying resistance mechanisms to BRAF inhibitors and other molecularly targeted agents is needed to develop new drugs and combination therapies that target multiple tumor cell growth pathways. To read more about this research, visit the MRA website. To read more about these recent findings, see “Second mutation in BRAF-mutated melanoma not contributing to drug resistance” or read the article abstract.
Letter from the President
Letter from the President
With 2012 well underway, the momentum for melanoma research continues to build. In this year's grant cycle, the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) received a record number of innovative research project ideas from around the world. As we work to generate additional resources for cutting edge science to accelerate our progress against deadly skin cancer, we are focused on developing alliances with stakeholders across the spectrum of organizations that share our mission. Through our continued alliance development, MRA finds partners who can help us realize our vision. To date, the MRA has established more than 50 alliances in the fight against melanoma. We are grateful for the support and friendship of each of our allies and welcome the collaboration of anyone who wishes to partner with us to defeat melanoma.
With one American dying every hour and incidence rates dramatically rising, melanoma continues to be an urgent and growing problem, even as we have finally begun to see real progress for patients with new treatments and exciting scientific breakthroughs. Just this week the The New England Journal of Medicine published an abstract on the new melanoma drug Zelboraf and the promising survival time for patients with BRAF-positive melanoma.
In the coming days, MRA will again be convening our funded investigators and key stakeholders for our Annual Scientific Retreat. We look forward to continuing to keep you apprised of the latest developments in the science and our progress in accelerating progress toward a cure for melanoma. Thank you for all of your continued guidance and support for our work.
Acting President and CEO
Melanoma featured at Congressional Briefing
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.
MRA to present at CALBIO2012
MRA will present at this year's CALBIO2012, March 8-9 in San Francisco. CALBIO2012 is a statewide conference produced by BayBio and BIOCOM that brings together the life sciences sector in California and beyond: company executives and innovators, government, medical research and disease foundations, university transfer offices, philanthropists and investors.
Melanoma Research: Padmanee "Pam" Sharma
Padmanee "Pam" Sharma says she chose to pursue a career in research and medicine because, "it gives her a chance to help patients, sometimes simply by being there to explain things during the course of a difficult situation, and to develop research that can have an impact on the future of patient care." As a physician treating cancer patients and as a researcher, Sharma has a unique and powerful combination of talents that are critical to accelerating clinical research. To read more about Pam Sharma and her innovative work, please visit MRA Researcher Stories on our Web site.
Publications: MRA funding researchers uncover melanoma risk genes
Described in a recent Nature publication, MRA funded research team lead by, Jeffrey Trent, Ph.D., Translational Genomics Research Institute, identifies genes associated with familial melanoma. These data indicate that MITF is a melanoma-predisposition gene and highlight the utility of whole-genome sequencing to identify novel rare variants associated with disease susceptibility. Dr. Trent's research is currently supported by a MRA Team Science Award. To learn more about the Team Science Award visit MRA Research Awards on our Web site or read the abstract of the publication.
Another MRA funded team was highlighted in Nature Genetics for identifying new melanoma predisposition genes. The team led by Nicolas Hayward, Ph.D., Queensland Institute of Medical Research reports a genome-wide association study which replicated previously known melanoma loci and found three new susceptibility loci. Read more about Dr. Hayward's research visit MRA Research Awards or view the abstracts of the publications.
MRA News & Information
Debra Black featured in Coping with Cancer on her fight against melanoma
MRA's co-founder and chair, Debra Black, was featured in a Coping with Cancer piece on her fight against melanoma which started About 10 years ago when she was diagnosed with an early stage melanoma in situ. Seven years later, she noticed what I thought was a wart on the bottom of my foot and was diagnosed with stage II melanoma.
MRA statement on report released by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce
The Minority Staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce released a report "False and Misleading Health Information Provided to Teens by the Indoor Tanning Industry," describing the health information provided to teens by the indoor tanning industry. The report, based on undercover interviews of tanning salon employees conducted by Committee investigators, finds that tanning salons target teenage girls with advertising and promotions, deny known risks of indoor tanning, provide false information on benefits of tanning, and fail to follow recommendations by the Food and Drug Administration on tanning frequency.
MRA Wendy Selig to serve on the Board of Directors for the National Coalition for Cancer Research
The National Coalition for Cancer Research (NCCR) recently announced Wendy K.D. Selig, President and CEO, Melanoma Research Alliance, has been elected to serve on the Board of Directors.
Letter from the President
Letter from the President
Building on a banner year
2011 was a banner year of progress for melanoma patients and all stakeholders committed to defeating this deadly disease. Yet, with recently updated data demonstrating that melanoma incidence and death continue to rise, all of us at MRA are spurred forward in our efforts. MRA-funded scientists around the world continue their tireless research to identify and bring into practice better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat melanoma so that we reverse this trend and find better options for patients and those at risk. We are gratified by the level of excitement in the field, measured by the increasing numbers of thoughtful research proposals emanating from a widening circle of investigators in countries around the world. In 2012, we resolve to build on our record of leveraging our investments, innovating collaborations, and, with the extraordinary commitment and support of MRA's growing list of donors and allies, building on the momentum and fast-forwarding a cure for melanoma.
Acting President and CEO
Bremer aims to develop novel approaches for melanoma treatment
Edwin Bremer's collaborative, translational research represents MRA's focus on bringing new treatments to patients as quickly as possible. "With my lab based in the department of surgery, I keep close contact with the surgeons to ensure we work towards the goal of integrating our new approach into clinical practice," he says. Read more about his innovative work, which is being supported by the SkinCeuticals-MRA Young Investigator Award.
MRA joins Health Research Alliance
MRA has become a member of the Health Research Alliance (HRA), a coalition of organizations that fosters collaboration among nonprofit, non-governmental funders of health research. Through HRA, MRA will interact with other leading research foundations to generate partnerships, share best practices, and learn about new models for supporting and advancing innovative research.
Debra Black on 'Standing up to Melanoma'
MRA's co-founder and chair, Debra Black, was featured in a Huffington Post guest blog on the importance of "Standing up to Melanoma." As part of the launch of the landmark Melanoma Research Alliance-Stand Up To Cancer Melanoma Dream Team, Debra shares her personal story with this disease and the progress that is being made through MRA and innovative collaborations toward finding and funding the most promising melanoma research worldwide in pursuit of a cure.
MRA receives GuideStar rating
We are pleased to announce that MRA has earned the GuideStar Exchange Seal of approval, demonstrating our commitment to best practices and transparency. GuideStar's mission is to revolutionize philanthropy and nonprofit practice by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving. Check out our GuideStar page for information about MRA's mission, programs, leaders, goals, accomplishments, and needs.
The story behind the MRA logo
In 2011, MRA revealed a new logo, which symbolizes our vision for accelerating the pace of scientific discovery and translation to eliminate death and suffering due to melanoma. The "o" in melanoma represents a microscope and conveys our commitment to providing an important and unique source of research funding that addresses the gap in translational science, which is a critical stage in moving scientific discoveries into tools and treatments for patients. The dot inside the "o" represents our singular focus. The vibrant red is meant to draw viewers' attention to melanoma and to raise awareness that more needs to be done to prevent, treat, and cure this deadly disease.
Resolve to reduce your risk this year
Make it your New Year's Resolution to reduce your risk of melanoma. While some people are more susceptible to melanoma, everyone is at risk. No matter your skin type or geographic location, you should wear sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 every day; limit sun exposure, especially during mid-day; avoid tanning beds; and pay attention to changes in your skin. Visit our Web site for other tips to reduce your risk.
Surviving Melanoma: Scott London
After having a strange mole on his back biopsied, Scott London was diagnosed with melanoma. His experience with melanoma turned out to be a roller coaster ride. "This entire process has taught me the importance of being persistent in getting multiple opinions, as well as the value of research to better prevent, diagnose, and treat melanoma." To read Scott's story, visit the Survivor Stories on our Web site.
- The Promise of Immunotherapy
- It's THAT Worth It Thunderclap
- Thought Leadership and Conferences
- The Sunscreen Innovation Act
- MRA & SU2C - Tom Hanks & Hillary Kind
- Skinceuticals MRA 'Spots' Video
- MRA Rings Closing Bell at NYSE
- Jeff Rowbottom at the Forbes Healthcare Summit
- MRA-SU2C Melanoma Dream Team
- Bruce Springsteen PSA
- Accelerating Progress for a Cure
- Style Network-MRA PSA
- Cancer 101 Briefing Series: Today's Cancer Clinical Trials. Tomorrow's Cures.