MRA and Hidary Foundation Award Team Science Awards for Research into the Genomics of Acral Melanoma
MRA and the Hidary Foundation, the philanthropic arm of technology entrepreneur Jack Hidary and his family, announced the recipients of their jointly-awarded grants into the study of the genomics of acral melanoma. Two teams comprised of researchers from Kaiser Permanente Research Institute, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Vanderbilt University submitted winning proposals to the organization’s Special Request for Proposals earlier this year. The two Team Science Awards total $1 million and will fund deeper study into the genomic drivers of acral melanoma, a subtype of the cancer that typically forms on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or under the fingernails, and has a 10-20% lower survival rate than non-acral cutaneous melanoma. MRA’s full press release on the awards is available here, and Jack Hidary also wrote about the importance of the collaboration in a piece that appeared on the front page of the Huffington Post.
New Research Findings Could Enhance Treatments for Drug-Resistant Melanomas
Targeted therapies, such as BRAF inhibitors for melanoma, may not be curative for most patients because tumors find ways to become resistant to the drugs. MRA-funded investigators are working to understand how this happens in order to enhance treatments for drug-resistant melanomas, as described in two recent papers in the Journal of Cancer Discovery. One study, led by Roger Lo of the University of California Los Angeles, revealed that tumors use a variety of different routes to become resistant to BRAF inhibitor drugs, but one mechanism, so-called MAPK pathway reactivation, was detected in a majority of samples. To make the story even more complicated, different mechanisms could be detected in the same tumor or among multiple tumors from the same patient. Additionally, the investigators discovered that as soon as melanomas come in contact with BRAF inhibitors, they are able to quickly turn on drug resistance pathways so that they can eventually evade the BRAF inhibitor and resume growth.
The second study, led by MRA-funded investigator Levi Garraway of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, used genomic sequencing techniques to study drug-resistant melanoma samples from patients treated with a BRAF inhibitor alone or in combination with a MEK inhibitor. Genomic profiling of these melanomas uncovered multiple resistance genes, but a large number involved reactivation of the MAPK pathway. However, some relatively rare mechanisms were discovered, which will require additional research to understand. Taken together, this research provides new insights into mechanisms of tumor resistance, which is critical to identifying new drug targets and developing the optimal combinations of these drugs to improve treatment for melanoma patients.
OUTREACH AND VISIBILITY
MRA Debuts Updated Logo
MRA recently underwent a logo optimization process with a specialized non-profit branding firm. We are excited to unveil the strengthened and updated MRA logo across our website and communications channels this week, just in time for the New Year! The logo is bolder and even more dynamic, and it will help MRA take maximum advantage of the many opportunities the organization receives across print and digital media. We are grateful to the many supporters and allies who provided us with valuable feedback during this process.
EVENTS AND ALLIANCES
MRA Participates in Record-Breaking Giving Tuesday
MRA participated in Giving Tuesday on December 3rd, and was pleased to be part of a record day of charitable giving and philanthropy. In its second year, the Giving Tuesday movement drew more than 10,000 corporate and non-profit partner organizations from around the world. Online giving in the U.S. went up by 90% on Giving Tuesday when compared to the same day in 2012. Support for MRA was shared across social media, and we saw a record number of daily visitors to the MRA website. Thank you to all of the allies and supporters who helped make our first Giving Tuesday such a success!
MRA Partners with Clare Hare Darien
MRA is pleased to announce its newest corporate partnership with Clare Hare Darien. The resortwear brand, sold online as well as at golf resorts in Connecticut, New York, and Florida, is expanding to include a sun-protective line in the New Year. In concurrence with this launch, MRA and Clare Hare Darien will be working collaboratively to develop a fundraising and awareness program. Companies interested in partnering with MRA can contact Development Manager Jennifer Engel at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
EVENTS AND ALLIANCES
MRA Holds Record-Breaking Benefit Dinner at Sotheby’s New York
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.
Fund Melanoma Research by Supporting MRA on Giving Tuesday
Please mark your calendars for Giving Tuesday, on Tuesday, December 3rd. On this annual day of giving, MRA has set a goal of raising $9,480--$1 for each person in the U.S. who will die from melanoma in 2013. We have teamed up with some of our corporate allies to reward donors on Giving Tuesday. First Aid Beauty has pledged to match the first $1,000 MRA raises, and supporters who donate $5 or more on Giving Tuesday will receive discounts and gift certificates for COOLA's organic sun care line, First Aid Beauty's skincare products, and Mott 50's UPF clothing. Additionally, all donors who give $175 or more will receive a complimentary Eric Javits 50+ UPF Champ Visor and a future discount on Eric Javits accessories. Check out the full #GivingTuesday webpage for more details and help us reach our goal on December 3rd. With 100% of your donation directly supporting our research program, this is a great opportunity to do good and get rewarded this holiday season!
Support MRA Through eBay and PayPal
MRA is now registered with eBay’s Giving Works, a program that helps sellers list items on eBay to benefit nonprofits. Watch this quirky video to learn how you can sell goods to raise funds for MRA, or donate directly to us via PayPal. Check out our Giving Page here to get started!
James Allison Wins Economist Innovation Award in Bioscience
|Dr. James Allison|
MRA-supported investigator and Scientific Advisory Panel member James Allison, PhD, of MD Anderson Cancer Center was recently named The Economist’s 2013 Innovation Award winner in Bioscience for his research into cancer immunotherapy. Allison pioneered research into checkpoint blockade, the method of action of ipilumumab, which was approved for use against metastatic melanoma in 2011. The Economist’s annual Innovation Awards recognize significant contributions across science, technology, and society. More on Allison’s award can be found here.
GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer Announce Combo Melanoma Trial
In good news for melanoma patients, industry giants Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline have announced the launch of a Phase I/II study that combines GlaxoSmithKline’s Mekinist™(trametinib) with Pfizer’s palbociclib. Mekinist&trade, which was approved to treat metastatic melanoma in the U.S. earlier this year, is a MEK inhibitor that targets BRAF-mutated patients. Palbociclib is an investigational anti-PD-1 treatment currently in clinical trials against several types of cancer. This type of collaboration between two rival companies is rare in the industry, but combinations of therapies may provide the best hope for melanoma patients seeking durable responses and long-term cures.
Yervoy® Wins Prix Galien Award
Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Yervoy®(ipilimumab), a therapy for metastatic melanoma approved by the U.S. FDA in 2011, has been awarded the Prix Galien Canada 2013 Innovative Product Award. The award recognizes Yervoy®’s significant impact on patient outcomes and treatment for metastatic melanoma. A full description of the award can be read here.
OUTREACH AND VISIBILITY
MRA Delivers Innovator Presentation at Partnering For Cures Meeting
MRA delivered an Innovator Presentation at FasterCures' 2013 Partnering For Cures meeting earlier this month. The event brings 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.
|T.J. Sharpe and Merck's Alise Reicin|
T.J. Sharpe Covers MRA’s Fundraising Dinner on Patient #1 Blog
Melanoma patient and blogger T.J. Sharpe attended MRA’s biannual benefit dinner and has covered the event on his blog. Sharpe writes the popular Patient #1 blog on Philly.com chronicling his battle with stage IV melanoma and his experience in melanoma clinical trials. He discusses the evening’s significance and how melanoma patients like himself have been impacted by MRA and its leadership and research programs. You can read T.J.’s full recap of the evening here, and be sure to follow the blog!
MRA and Immunotherapies Featured on Biotechnology Industry Blog
An MRA-authored piece on the promise of cancer immunotherapies was recently featured in BIOtech Now, the blog platform of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). The op-ed, titled “New Cancer Treatments Seek to Give the Immune System Superpowers,” highlights recent progress in anti-PD-1 and other immunotherapeutic approaches to treating melanoma and educates readers on MRA’s leading role in funding research and promoting collaborations. Head over to BIO’s blog to read the full article.
MRA Featured in Dana-Farber Article on Advances in Melanoma Therapy
A recent overview of scientific progress against melanoma by Dana-Farber’s Insight blog quotes MRA’s Chief Science Officer, Louise M. Perkins, commenting on the improving outlook for metastatic melanoma patients. The piece focuses on checkpoint blockade and recent research by MRA-supported investigator Dr. Stephen Hodi and can be read in its entirety here.
PASS Coalition Continues to Advocate for Improved Sunscreen Approval Process
The Public Access To SunScreens (PASS) Coalition, which includes MRA as an active member, has been making progress in DC. At a recent House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight hearing, Members of Congress questioned FDA officials about the status of efforts to address the protracted backlog of pending new sunscreen applications. MRA leadership has been participating in high-level meetings in Congress and at the FDA to advocate for a bipartisan proposal to reform the current process.
DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH
MRA and Allies to Participate in Giving Tuesday
MRA is joining the #GivingTuesday movement this holiday season. In its second year, Giving Tuesday is a national day of charitable giving that occurs the Tuesday following Thanksgiving as a way to give back to good causes in the wake of the holiday shopping rush. We are excited to team up with the following corporate allies who will be helping MRA promote the campaign and will be offering unique rewards to donors who support MRA on Giving Tuesday : COOLA, Eric Javits, First Aid Beauty, and Mott 50. Mark your calendars for Giving Tuesday 2013 on December 3rd and watch for more information on opportunities to help us spread the word and for ways your Giving Tuesday donation to MRA will be rewarded.
Board Member Jeff Rowbottom Shares His Story at Forbes Healthcare Summit
Earlier this month, MRA Board Member and melanoma survivor Jeff Rowbottom spoke at the Forbes Healthcare Summit. Jeff discussed how his diagnosis with melanoma brought him to the MRA and inspired the Leveraged Finance community to take action against the disease. This year’s summit, titled, “Empowering The Patient Revolution,” was attended by executive leadership and thought-leaders representing industry, government, academia, and advocacy. A video of his talk is available to view by clicking here.
MRA-Stand Up To Cancer Campaign Update
The MRA-SU2C melanoma awareness PSAs with Giada De Laurentiis and Laura Linney continue to spread MRA’s message of prevention, earning media placement in broadcast, print, and online formats across the country. As of early October, the PSAs have made a combined 926 million media impressions. If you spot either of these ads, don’t hesitate to snap a picture and share it with us on social media!
Scientific Leadership Participates in Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics Conference
The Chair of MRA’s Scientific Advisory Panel, Suzanne Topalian, MD, and MRA’s Chief Scientific Officer, Louise Perkins, PhD, recently participated in the AACR-NCI-EORTC meeting in Boston. The event focused on the importance of molecular targets in drug development and treatment of disease and drew 3,000 leading academics, scientists, and pharmaceutical industry representatives from around the globe. Dr. Topalian delivered a keynote lecture titled, “Targeting the PD-1 pathway: Resetting the balance between the immune system and cancer,” while Dr. Perkins participated on a plenary session titled, “Combining Immunotherapies, Immune Modulators, and Targeted Therapies: Regulatory Opportunities and Challenges.” You can watch Dr. Perkins' full panel here.
New MRA Ally Story Featuring Steve Brody
This month, MRA ally Steve Brody, Partner, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, shares the story of his involvement with MRA. After watching a close friend lose his battle with melanoma, Steve, an attorney with significant medical regulatory experience, wanted to get involved. A chance introduction launched a collaboration between O’Melveny & Myers LLP and MRA that began with pro bono legal counsel and led to generous support for MRA’s research program. Read Steve’s full story here.
MRA to Deliver Innovator Presentation at Partnering For Cures Meeting
MRA has been selected to deliver an Innovator Presentation at next week’s Partnering For Cures meeting in New York City. Hosted by FasterCures, the meeting brings together leaders from all sectors of medical research to foster collaborations critical to speeding the development of new therapies. MRA will be discussing the structure and progress of its 2013 Academic-Industry Partnership Award with Pfizer on Tuesday, November 5, from 10:15-10:40 a.m. Be sure to check out the presentation if you are attending the conference—there is still time to register!
Breaking Through Cancer’s Shield
A recent New York Times article highlighted the promise of groundbreaking immunotherapies in the treatment of patients with melanoma and other cancers. This treatment approach is leading the way for a new era in cancer medicine. The article featured MRA-funded investigators including Charles Drake, Drew Pardoll, and Suzanne Topalian, all of Johns Hopkins University, who echoed the continuing excitement among clinicians and patients for progress in the field. By providing critical funding for projects focusing on the immune system’s ability to attack cancer, MRA is playing a central role in these transformational advances. To date, MRA has awarded more than $10 million related to treatment approaches that harness the power of the immune system, including defining treatment-related biomarkers and developing combinatorial therapy approaches.
Update on 2013-2014 Request for Proposals
MRA received a record-number of applications for Team Science Awards, including the Saban Family Foundation-MRA Team Science Awards for Israel-led investigative teams. MRA’s 2013-2014 Request for Proposals (RFP) is still open, seeking promising ideas in melanoma prevention, diagnosis/staging and treatment. Proposals to MRA for Young Investigator Awards and Academic-Industry Partnership Awards are due November 13th. MRA plans to award at least $8 million this cycle.
COLLABORATIONS AND OUTREACH
MRA Partners with UPF Sun Shop
MRA is pleased to announce its newest corporate partnership with UPF Sun Shop. The online UPF clothing company is running a year-long program to generate awareness and revenue for MRA and will be joining the growing ranks of MRA’s 2014 May Melanoma Awareness Allies. Companies interested in partnering with MRA can contact Development Manager Jennifer Engel at: email@example.com.
Prizeo Campaign Helps to Raise Melanoma Survivors’ Spirits and Bolster Research Funding
Thank you to all of the supporters who contributed to MRA’s Prizeo campaign this summer. The campaign utilized Prizeo’s online fundraising platform to incentivize donations to MRA with a chance to win a trip to the American Idol® Live! Tour 2013 finale show in Nashville. Both the contest and melanoma awareness were promoted with a video that aired during the Tour as well as a PSA advertisement, generously created and aired by SiriusXM. MRA engaged with more than 600 potential donors during this campaign, and all donations received will directly help fund MRA’s research program. Additionally, the contest delivered an evening of entertainment to several families impacted by melanoma. Not only was the contest winner personally touched by melanoma, but a very special evening was created for a pediatric melanoma patient and her family. MRA is grateful for the support of our allies who made this campaign possible, including: the American Idol® Live! Tour 2013, Prizeo, SiriusXM, and BullFrog Sunscreen.
New Stories Added to the MRA Website
MRA recently added compelling new researcher, survivor, and family stories to its website. MRA 2013 Young Investigator Award recipient Dr. Susana Ortiz-Urda of the University of California, San Francisco, explains her interest in melanoma research and her work on drug resistance in patients with NRAS mutated melanoma here. Melanoma survivor Rusty Cline discusses his battle with the disease and how an introduction to MRA changed the course of his treatment and gave him renewed hope here. And MRA friend Angela de Jong talks about how her nine-year-old daughter Alyssa’s metastatic melanoma diagnosis changed her family and transformed them into safe sun advocates here.
MRA Sponsors Rally For Medical Research Hill Day
On Wednesday, September 18, MRA joined with academic researchers, doctors, patients, and advocacy organizations convening on Capitol Hill for the Rally For Medical Research’s Hill Day. Attendees spent the day meeting with members of Congress and discussing the promise of ongoing medical research and the importance of investment in the research sector. With the National Institutes of Health (NIH) already feeling the pain of sequestration, lawmakers in both parties were urged to defend medical research during the upcoming appropriations and debt ceiling discussions.
MRA Participates on FDA Panel on Patients and Medical Devices
Earlier this month, MRA CEO Wendy Selig participated on a public panel hosted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the patient perspective of medical device regulation titled “Patients and Data Collection.” Margaret Anderson of FasterCures and representatives from other patient advocacy organizations also participated on the panel, which centered on patient involvement in clinical trials.
MRA Submits Comments on Surgeon General and CDC Skin Cancer Prevention Notice
Last month, the Surgeon General and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) solicited comments from the public regarding UV exposure and skin cancer prevention in the United States. MRA’s public comments on the notice can be viewed here. In addition to submitting comments in support of potential programs that would help prevent skin cancer and melanoma, MRA also encouraged its supporters to engage with the notice; a review of the information collected may lead to the issuance of an Office of the Surgeon General publication, which could galvanize action around a public health agenda to combat melanoma.
Melanoma Survivor Dr. Roslyn Meyer Speaks on Senate Cancer Coalition Forum
Melanoma survivor and MRA supporter Roslyn Meyer spoke on a Senate Cancer Coalition Forum this month. The forum, titled “Next-Generation Cancer Treatments,” highlighted recent clinical progress in cancer treatments and featured scientists and clinical researchers discussing breakthroughs in several different types of cancer. Roslyn shared the story of her battle with melanoma and her involvement in an NIH-funded clinical trial that ultimately helped her beat the disease. The Coalition is comprised of 17 U.S. Senators and is chaired by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and co-chaired by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
AACR Releases 2013 Cancer Progress Report
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) recently released its 2013 Cancer Progress Report , which highlights the remarkable progress investments in cancer research and biomedical science have made for patients over the past year. The report includes a special feature on immunotherapy, an approach that is beginning to revolutionize the treatment of patients with melanoma and other cancers. Melanoma is one of the most immunogenic cancer types, meaning that patients’ immune systems respond to and try to attack the cancer. In the report, MRA-funded investigator Drew Pardoll of Johns Hopkins University discusses the future promise of immunotherapy. The immunotherapy approach has produced promising data in melanoma patients; the report also features melanoma patient and MRA friend Andy Messinger sharing his treatment experience with ipilimumab. You can read more about Andy’s story on the MRA website here.
MRA-Funded Research Provides a Closer Look at how Tumors Manage to Evade the Immune System
Immunotherapies have shown great promise in melanoma and other cancer patients. However, as this treatment approach provides clinical benefit in only a subset of patients, researchers are working to understand the biological mechanisms underlying this in order to improve their effectiveness. A new study led by Thomas Gajewski of University of Chicago and published in Science Translational Medicine provides a closer look at how tumors manage to evade the immune system. Gajewski’s team examined specific characteristics of the tumor microenvironment in human melanomas. Some tumors “hide” from the immune system or prevent immune cells from invading, while others interact with the immune system and then suppress it. They looked specifically at those tumors in which immune cells (called T cells) had accomplished the important step of invading it but were not eliminated by the immune system. The investigators were surprised to learn that the immune suppressive mechanisms they observed appear to be intrinsic to the patient’s immune system and not directly promoted by the tumor. These findings provide a foundation to develop additional immunotherapeutic targets and combination therapy approaches for melanoma.
COLLABORATIONS AND OUTREACH
MRA Prizeo Campaign Update
Hours remain in MRA’s latest fundraising campaign, an online giving contest hosted by celebrity fundraising platform Prizeo. Supporters can donate as little as $3 to MRA and be entered to win the grand prize: A free trip to Nashville to watch the final show of the American Idol® Live! Tour 2013 later this month. The winner will also receive backstage passes and will get the chance to meet Season 12 winner Candice Glover. Larger donations to MRA will earn contributors guaranteed rewards such as an e thank-you from Candice herself, a free BullFrog sunscreen and a custom-designed James Perse t-shirt. This campaign follows a new model that allows MRA’s donors to win prizes while helping fund our critical melanoma research. By appealing to fans of this popular television show and concert series, MRA hopes to grow our community of supporters and to increase awareness and engagement, especially among young people. Head to www.prizeo.com/idollive to enter the contest today. There is still time!
James Perse Safe Sun Display
MRA ally James Perse is making a safe sun statement in his stores this summer. In an effort to raise melanoma and safe sun awareness, store windows feature an eye-catching safe sun message that directs people to MRA’s website for more information. James Perse stores will also feature Coola Suncare products during the month of August, with a portion of sales going back to MRA’s research programs.
Thank You to May Allies MRA would like to thank all of its May Melanoma Awareness Month allies for their support and contributions to an incredibly successful 2013 Melanoma Awareness Month. Through online and in-store efforts, the allies helped raise funds for MRA’s scientific research programs and also increased awareness of melanoma prevention and safe sun behaviors. With final tallies still being compiled, this year’s campaign has generated more than $510,000 for MRA’s cutting edge research programs, led by the flagship consumer choice campaigns of Claire’s and The Sports Authority, and more targeted online promotions by a number of smaller allies including Bergdorf Goodman, Brelli, Cabana Life, Eric Javits, First Aid Beauty, Mott 50, Parasol, Skinceuticals, SPF Love, and YouBeauty. We are already laying the groundwork for May 2014 and look forward to working with our many committed allies.
Thank You to May Allies
MRA would like to thank all of its May Melanoma Awareness Month allies for their support and contributions to an incredibly successful 2013 Melanoma Awareness Month. Through online and in-store efforts, the allies helped raise funds for MRA’s scientific research programs and also increased awareness of melanoma prevention and safe sun behaviors. With final tallies still being compiled, this year’s campaign has generated more than $510,000 for MRA’s cutting edge research programs, led by the flagship consumer choice campaigns of Claire’s and The Sports Authority, and more targeted online promotions by a number of smaller allies including Bergdorf Goodman, Brelli, Cabana Life, Eric Javits, First Aid Beauty, Mott 50, Parasol, Skinceuticals, SPF Love, and YouBeauty. We are already laying the groundwork for May 2014 and look forward to working with our many committed allies.
New Survivor Story on MRA’s Website: Frank Courtney
This month, MRA supporter and friend Frank Courtney shares the story of his battle against melanoma and how it spurred his involvement with cancer research and the MRA. You can read Frank’s full story here. We are always looking for stories about how melanoma and MRA have impacted patients and their families. If you would like to contribute a survivor or family story to MRA’s website, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
SCIENCE NEWS MRA Releases 2013-2014 Request for Proposals MRA recently announced its seventh annual Request for Proposals (RFP), soliciting translational research grant applications from scientists and clinicians around the world. The RFP calls for ideas that could lead to high impact near-term clinical application in melanoma detection, prevention, diagnosis, staging, or treatment. MRA will accept proposals for Young Investigator Awards, Academic-Industrial Partnership Awards, and Team Science Awards. This year, the RFP includes MRA’s first Regional Special Opportunity, soliciting Team Science Award proposals from Israel-based investigators, an award made possible by generous support from the Saban Family Foundation. MRA plans to award at least $8 million to new projects during this 2014 grant cycle. More details on award types, deadlines, and eligibility criteria can be found on the MRA website: http://www.curemelanoma.org/research/request-for-proposals/ Scientific Advisory Panel and Grant Review Committee Update MRA is pleased to announce David Solit of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as this year’s Grant Review Committee Chair. Kim Margolin of University of Washington/Seattle Cancer Center will Co-Chair the committee. MRA would also like to welcome the following members to the Science Advisory Panel and Grant Review Committee: Imatinib Shows Promise for Treating KIT-mutated Melanoma Imatinib, which is already FDA-approved for the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia, may be a promising treatment option for patients with KIT-mutated melanoma, according to a new report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Genetic aberrations of the KIT gene are expressed in a significant proportion of melanomas that arise from mucosal, acral surfaces and chronically sun damaged skin. This Phase II clinical trial, led by Stephen Hodi of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and others, revealed a positive response to imatinib in melanoma patients harboring the KIT mutation. They also found that tumors that express NRAS mutations and KIT amplification may be mechanisms of therapeutic resistance to imatinib. While more research is needed to firmly establish this finding and to optimize patient selection, imatinib may offer a treatment option for this subset of melanoma patients who have had very limited treatment options. Based on these findings and other recent studies, the use of imatinib has now been included in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines for Melanoma. MRA-Funded Research Provides Proof-of-Concept for New Therapeutic Target A new study led by Alexander Levitzki of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and published in Cancer Research, describes the anti-melanoma activity of a series of novel inhibitors of the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R) pathway that plays a key role in metastatic melanoma. The molecules that bind to IGF1R, called IRS1 and IRS2, have shown to be involved in tumor growth and metastasis, yet there are no anticancer agents that target them. Funded by an MRA Established Investigator Award, Levitzki’s group synthesized drugs that target IRS1/2 and found that they inhibited growth of melanoma cell lines and tumors in animal models. Additional studies suggest that these drugs may be particularly useful in combination with BRAF inhibitors and in the setting of BRAF inhibitor resistance. A biotechnology company is continuing to develop these compounds for potential testing in clinical trials. POLICY NEWS Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Recommends Increased Funding for Cancer Research The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), recently announced the Subcommittee’s recommendation for a $25 million allocation to the Department of Defense’s Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP). The Senate recommendation prioritizes five cancers to be eligible for funding, including melanoma, noting the special burden melanoma places on members of the military. The bill still faces a reconciliation process with the House-passed version, which listed melanoma as one of nine other cancers eligible to compete for $15 million in grants under the DoD’s PRCRP. The Senate’s proposal to increase the pool of funding and further prioritize specific cancers including melanoma comes at an important time for the melanoma research community, as MRA’s founders and leadership informed Senate leaders during several high-level meetings this summer. MRA will continue to engage policymakers to ensure that melanoma research remains a priority during the appropriations reconciliation process. Surgeon General and CDC Release Notice on Skin Cancer Prevention The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), released a notice in the Federal Register requesting information from the public on preventing deadly skin cancer through the reduction of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure. With this action, HHS invites comments and information regarding the prevention of skin cancer. The notice states that information obtained will be used by the CDC to enhance the Office of the Surgeon General’s strategy for combating the growing public health issue of skin cancer. A review of the information collected may lead to the issuance of an Office of the Surgeon General publication, which could be a powerful tool for the melanoma community in helping to galvanize action around a public health agenda to combat melanoma. MRA Submits Comment Letter to FDA on the Proposed Reclassification of Tanning Devices Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released draft guidance calling for the reclassification of tanning beds and devices. The proposed reclassification moves tanning beds and sunlamps from Class 1 (low risk) to Class 2 (moderate risk) devices. Under the proposed system, tanning beds and sunlamps would be required to display stronger warning labels, including a recommendation that people under the age of 18 abstain from using these devices. The proposed reclassification has drawn many comments from cancer advocacy groups, medical researchers, as well as concerned tanning salon owners. MRA submitted comments on the issue, applauding the FDA for considering the reclassification, but encouraging the agency to issue a nationwide ban on tanning for minors under 18. MRA also expressed concern that the proposed 10mm high warning label would not be large enough to catch the attention of tanning bed users. The full comment on the issue can be read here.
MRA Releases 2013-2014 Request for Proposals
MRA recently announced its seventh annual Request for Proposals (RFP), soliciting translational research grant applications from scientists and clinicians around the world. The RFP calls for ideas that could lead to high impact near-term clinical application in melanoma detection, prevention, diagnosis, staging, or treatment. MRA will accept proposals for Young Investigator Awards, Academic-Industrial Partnership Awards, and Team Science Awards. This year, the RFP includes MRA’s first Regional Special Opportunity, soliciting Team Science Award proposals from Israel-based investigators, an award made possible by generous support from the Saban Family Foundation. MRA plans to award at least $8 million to new projects during this 2014 grant cycle. More details on award types, deadlines, and eligibility criteria can be found on the MRA website: http://www.curemelanoma.org/research/request-for-proposals/
Scientific Advisory Panel and Grant Review Committee Update
MRA is pleased to announce David Solit of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as this year’s Grant Review Committee Chair. Kim Margolin of University of Washington/Seattle Cancer Center will Co-Chair the committee. MRA would also like to welcome the following members to the Science Advisory Panel and Grant Review Committee:
Imatinib Shows Promise for Treating KIT-mutated Melanoma
Imatinib, which is already FDA-approved for the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia, may be a promising treatment option for patients with KIT-mutated melanoma, according to a new report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Genetic aberrations of the KIT gene are expressed in a significant proportion of melanomas that arise from mucosal, acral surfaces and chronically sun damaged skin. This Phase II clinical trial, led by Stephen Hodi of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and others, revealed a positive response to imatinib in melanoma patients harboring the KIT mutation. They also found that tumors that express NRAS mutations and KIT amplification may be mechanisms of therapeutic resistance to imatinib. While more research is needed to firmly establish this finding and to optimize patient selection, imatinib may offer a treatment option for this subset of melanoma patients who have had very limited treatment options. Based on these findings and other recent studies, the use of imatinib has now been included in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines for Melanoma.
MRA-Funded Research Provides Proof-of-Concept for New Therapeutic Target
A new study led by Alexander Levitzki of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and published in Cancer Research, describes the anti-melanoma activity of a series of novel inhibitors of the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R) pathway that plays a key role in metastatic melanoma. The molecules that bind to IGF1R, called IRS1 and IRS2, have shown to be involved in tumor growth and metastasis, yet there are no anticancer agents that target them. Funded by an MRA Established Investigator Award, Levitzki’s group synthesized drugs that target IRS1/2 and found that they inhibited growth of melanoma cell lines and tumors in animal models. Additional studies suggest that these drugs may be particularly useful in combination with BRAF inhibitors and in the setting of BRAF inhibitor resistance. A biotechnology company is continuing to develop these compounds for potential testing in clinical trials.
Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Recommends Increased Funding for Cancer Research
The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), recently announced the Subcommittee’s recommendation for a $25 million allocation to the Department of Defense’s Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP). The Senate recommendation prioritizes five cancers to be eligible for funding, including melanoma, noting the special burden melanoma places on members of the military. The bill still faces a reconciliation process with the House-passed version, which listed melanoma as one of nine other cancers eligible to compete for $15 million in grants under the DoD’s PRCRP. The Senate’s proposal to increase the pool of funding and further prioritize specific cancers including melanoma comes at an important time for the melanoma research community, as MRA’s founders and leadership informed Senate leaders during several high-level meetings this summer. MRA will continue to engage policymakers to ensure that melanoma research remains a priority during the appropriations reconciliation process.
Surgeon General and CDC Release Notice on Skin Cancer Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), released a notice in the Federal Register requesting information from the public on preventing deadly skin cancer through the reduction of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure. With this action, HHS invites comments and information regarding the prevention of skin cancer. The notice states that information obtained will be used by the CDC to enhance the Office of the Surgeon General’s strategy for combating the growing public health issue of skin cancer. A review of the information collected may lead to the issuance of an Office of the Surgeon General publication, which could be a powerful tool for the melanoma community in helping to galvanize action around a public health agenda to combat melanoma.
MRA Submits Comment Letter to FDA on the Proposed Reclassification of Tanning Devices
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released draft guidance calling for the reclassification of tanning beds and devices. The proposed reclassification moves tanning beds and sunlamps from Class 1 (low risk) to Class 2 (moderate risk) devices. Under the proposed system, tanning beds and sunlamps would be required to display stronger warning labels, including a recommendation that people under the age of 18 abstain from using these devices. The proposed reclassification has drawn many comments from cancer advocacy groups, medical researchers, as well as concerned tanning salon owners. MRA submitted comments on the issue, applauding the FDA for considering the reclassification, but encouraging the agency to issue a nationwide ban on tanning for minors under 18. MRA also expressed concern that the proposed 10mm high warning label would not be large enough to catch the attention of tanning bed users. The full comment on the issue can be read here.
COLLABORATIONS & MAY CAMPAIGN NEWS
Summary of May campaigns
The conclusion of this year’s Melanoma Awareness Month program marks a major stride in MRA’s awareness efforts. Because melanoma is very preventable if detected early and the right precautions are taken to avoid excessive sun and UV exposure, we rely on our allies to communicate the importance of melanoma and sun safety education to their stakeholders. This year, more than two dozen partners participated in May campaigns to support these efforts, implementing cause marketing campaigns to raise money for our research program and social media campaigns to engage the public on melanoma awareness and prevention. We would like to extend a special thank you to Sports Authority and Claire’s, whose combined consumer choice donation campaigns generated almost $500,000 for MRA’s research program.
The May campaigns also helped boost MRA’s visibility. During the month, MRA increased its Facebook fan base by 17%, launched the first-ever MRA blog, and increased its Twitter ‘mentions’ (the number of times users’ tweets included our handle) by 610% when compared with the previous month. Celebrities like Bruce Springsteen and corporate partners like L’Oréal Paris helped enhance the organization’s Facebook visibility, and MRA and MRA’s content reached more than 1 million people through Facebook in May. Our website also saw significant traffic, with 126% more page views than it received during the same time period in 2012.
This May also celebrates MRA’s first grassroots crowd funding campaign, two appearances on AOL’s homepage as the featured ‘Cause of the Day,’ and various mentions on broadcast programming such as Katie and The Today Show. We are so grateful to all of our partners for their steadfast loyalty and support, and we will be sure to update you as new collaborations and campaigns take shape this summer.
Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma recap
The Second Annual Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma event at Rockefeller Center was highly successful, both in terms of fundraising and visibility. The event drew much of the leveraged finance community and brought in more than $1.2 million to support MRA’s research program. Coverage of the event appeared in a number of financial publications, including the New York Times Dealbook. Privcap also produced a series of short videos showing how melanoma has affected individuals in the leveraged finance community. The event’s success would not have been possible without the generous silent auction donations from many of MRA’s allies and supporters, as well as the dedication of the event’s co-chairs and the greater leveraged finance community. We heartily thank everyone who was involved with planning and running the event, especially event co-chairs MRA Board Member Jeff Rowbottom of KKR and Brendan Dillon of UBS.
Mark your calendars for the 2014 event, which will take place at Rockefeller Center on the evening of May 21, 2014!
MRA and Mott 50 social media campaign
MRA and UPF protective clothing company Mott 50 have launched a social media awareness campaign this June. The ‘Pale is Pretty’ campaign is designed to encourage people to accept their natural skin color and avoid tanning and exposure to harmful UV rays. For every person who shares or retweets Mott 50’s campaign content on Facebook or Twitter, Mott 50 will make a donation to benefit MRA’s research programs.
American Idol® Live! Tour 2013 partnership
Earlier this summer, the American Idol® Live! Tour 2013 announced that MRA had been selected as its charitable partner. MRA will receive $1 from every ticket sold for the Tour, which kicks off on July 19th and travels to 30 venues across the U.S. before wrapping up in Nashville on August 31st. Visit the Tour’s website for more information and to see when the Tour is headed to a city near you.
OUTREACH & VISIBILITY
Update on MRA-SU2C PSA with Giada De Laurentiis
While this PSA officially launched in April, it was highly visible during the month of May. The television version of the PSA is airing in 10 out of the top 15 media markets in the U.S., including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, and Houston. The radio version has aired more than 18,000 times around the country. Overall, the campaign has made more than 328 million media impressions since April, and the PSA has run in taxis in some of the country’s largest cities. Additionally, the PSA and MRA-SU2C collaboration were featured as the AOL ‘Cause of the Day’ on the AOL homepage.
MRA featured on Medscape’s ASCO melanoma highlights video
Melanoma therapies were the talk of this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting, and a collaboration with clinical news provider Medscape allowed MRA to further establish itself as a thought-leader in the scientific space. Medscape created a video highlighting the exciting melanoma developments that came out of the ASCO meeting, and MRA’s Chief Scientific Officer Louise Perkins and MRA-supported investigator Antoni Ribas starred in the video, which can be accessed here (free account creation required). The video was also distributed in ASCO summary emails to Medscape’s Oncology audience, which is primarily composed of practicing clinicians.
New survivor and ally stories added to MRA website
MRA recently added several new stories to its website. MRA supporter Phil Dunn added the story of his encounter with melanoma—you can read it here. Finance reporter Krista Giovacco met MRA at this year’s Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma Event, and has graciously shared her melanoma survivor story here. We have also created an exciting new page in the MRA Stories section of the website: Ally Stories. The feature has been launched with a testimony from Pfizer’s Dr. David Roth detailing his experience working on Pfizer’s recently-announced Industry-Academic partnership with MRA. Check out David’s story here.
MRA announces special proposal opportunity in acral melanoma
MRA just announced the release of a Special Opportunity focusing on the subtype of melanoma known as acral melanoma. In partnership with the Hidary Foundation, MRA is offering a Team Science Award to comprehensively characterize acral melanoma patient samples via state-of-the-art genomic technologies and other analytical approaches in the context of cutting edge biology for new points of therapeutic intervention. The call for proposals can be accessed on the MRA website. MRA plans to release its regular, annual RFP in late August.
Two MRA-supported researchers publish studies in the New England Journal of Medicine
Two MRA-sponsored investigators recently reported on the clinical testing of immune checkpoint inhibitors targeting a pathway known as PD-1 in the New England Journal of Medicine. This therapeutic approach, whose clinical utility was established by the FDA approval of ipilimumab in 2011, has produced promising data in patients with advanced melanoma. A new study, published by Jedd Wolchok of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and others, evaluated the anti-PD-1 antibody nivolumab alone and in combination with ipilimumab. To read more about these findings see, “Nivolumab plus Ipilimumab in Advanced Melanoma.” Another study, led by Antoni Ribas of University of California, Los Angeles, and other investigators, revealed promising data on the anti-PD-1 antibody lambrolizumab. To learn more about this work see, “Safety and Tumor Responses with Lambrolizumab (Anti-PD-1) in Melanoma.”
Nevada and Texas become 4th and 5th states to ban tanning beds for minors
During June, Nevada and Texas passed legislation banning tanning beds for minors under 18 years of age. Since 2012, California, Vermont, and Oregon have enacted similar tanning bed restrictions for minors. Under‐18 bills are gaining momentum across the country, and a similar bill in Illinois is currently awaiting the governor’s signature. MRA strongly supports efforts among state legislatures to reduce the use of these devices and raise awareness of the dangers of UV exposure. Read MRA’s statements on the bans here (Nevada) and here (Texas).
News and Outreach
The AOL Impact program helps connect AOL's online community with philanthropic causes and groups. As part of MRA's alliance with AOL Impact, MRA appeared on the AOL homepage as the “Cause of the Day” on May 4th and May 15th. With 12.4 million unique daily users, the AOL homepage provided an exceptional awareness-building platform for MRA.
MRA Featured on Research! America Blog
Wendy Selig authored a guest blog post on the Research! America blog highlighting MRA's mission and advocacy work and helping kick off Melanoma Awareness Month. As a member of the Research! America alliance, MRA advocates for making scientific research a national priority, including robust funding for FDA and NIH. Read Wendy's post here.
MRA at Milken Institute Global Conference
MRA attended the Milken Institute's 2013 Global Conference in full force, speaking on panels and hosting an exhibit. MRA's CSO 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. 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.” You can watch the immunotherapy panel here and the patient organization panel here.
L'Oréal Paris and MRA announced their new alliance on Melanoma Monday, and the campaign has already earned MRA widespread media exposure. A series of print ads featuring L'Oréal Paris' support of MRA, Jennifer Lopez and L'Oréal Paris' Sublime Sun skincare line have begun appearing, and Eva Longoria discussed the collaboration on the Katie Show with Katie Couric on May 7(The video is the third one down on this page). The campaign is also highly visible on social media, with celebrities like Maria Menounos and Molly Simms tweeting about the collaboration.
MRA's Louise Perkins Interviewed on CBS Radio Station
MRA CSO Louise Perkins was recently interviewed on New York City's Fresh 102.7FM radio station. She discussed Melanoma Awareness Month, MRA's upcoming events, and skin health and melanoma prevention. The interview was also streamed on last.fm. A summary of the interview and the full audio can be found here.
FDA Proposes Tanning Device Reclassification
The FDA has released proposed regulations that would require tanning beds and sunlamps to display stronger warning labels, including a recommendation that people under the age of 18 abstain from using these devices. The proposed reclassification moves tanning beds and sunlamps from Class 1 (low risk) to Class 2 (moderate risk) devices. MRA is a strong proponent of banning indoor tanning beds for minors and views the proposed reclassification as an important first step in this process. Read MRA's full statement on the proposed rule here.
MRA Joins PASS Coalition
MRA recently joined the Public Access to SunScreens (PASS) Coalition, a multi-stakeholder coalition of public health organizations, dermatologists, sunscreen ingredient companies and concerned citizens who are working to establish a timely and transparent framework for approval of the next generation of UV active filters for Over-the-Counter (OTC) sunscreens. MRA looks forward to collaborating with our allies in this coalition to advance efforts to help the public prevent dangerous sun exposure.
MRA will be attending the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting from May 31-June 4 in Chicago. ASCO is the world's largest meeting of oncology professionals, drawing 25,000 people from around the globe. Melanoma is expected to be a hot topic at this year's event, to include reports on the clinical testing of anti-PD-1 immunotherapy agents. Multiple MRA-sponsored investigators will present their research to advance new melanoma treatments. MRA will provide daily dispatches from the meeting and will also deliver real-time updates via Twitter.
Top Melanoma Researchers Explore Latest Findings, Opportunities for Accelerated Progress at Fifth Annual Scientific Retreat
MRA convened its Fifth Annual Scientific Retreat in Washington, DC, on February 27-28, 2013. The retreat brought together nearly 200 leading scientists and clinicians from around the world, as well as senior leadership from nonprofit foundations, corporate allies, government agencies, industry, and other key stakeholders.
The retreat reflected the excitement and progress in melanoma research and the impact of MRA on accelerating its pace. The scientific sessions provided an opportunity for discussion of cutting-edge science focused on identifying new approaches to melanoma prevention and therapy. Highlights from this year's meeting included a welcome reception hosted by the Embassy of Australia and MRA's first-ever Industry Roundtable Breakfast. The roundtable breakfast facilitated a discussion among leaders in drug and device development, key academic opinion leaders, and government officials about opportunities and challenges for clinical progress in melanoma. Another highlight was the panel discussion focused on clinical care decision-making for today's melanoma patients. Additionally, the retreat agenda featured special talks from Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, and Director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences Christopher Austin.
MRA is grateful to the following sponsors for their generous financial and in-kind support of the retreat, including: Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Celgene Corporation, Genentech, Eli Lilly, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, Novartis, Daiichi Sankyo Inc, Aduro Biotech, Amgen, Provectus Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer Oncology, National Pharmaceutical Council, Biotechnology Industry Organization, AdvaMedDx, Life Technologies, EntroGen, Vineyard Vines, Embassy of Australia, and Cynthia Hazen Polsky.
New study reveals one way cancer vaccines "self-sabotage"
Despite their promise, experimental melanoma vaccines have not been effective in the vast majority of patients so far. An MRA-funded study led by Willem Overwijk at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center published in Nature Medicine, reveals one reason why vaccines have not worked well and offers a new solution to this problem. Overwijk and colleagues discovered that a common oil-based vaccine ingredient known as incomplete Freund's adjuvant (IFA) prevents T cells from trafficking to the tumor. Their models showed that IFA-based vaccines fostered long term presence of antigen at the vaccination site, causing killer T cells to congregate there and become exhausted. Switching to a saline-based melanoma vaccine, however, allowed T cells to gather in the tumors and exert anti-tumor activity. The researchers plan to validate their findings in a clinical trial later this year. To learn more about this research, view the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center video. To read more about Dr. Overwijk's 2010 MRA Established Investigator Award, visit the MRA website.
BRAF inhibitors cause melanoma cells to shift how they produce energy
Targeted agents, such as BRAF inhibitors for melanoma, may not be curative for most patients because tumor cells find ways to overcome the effects of the drugs. Several drug resistance mechanisms have been published in the last few years. A new study released online in Cancer Cell, reveals yet another way melanoma cells overcome the effects of BRAF inhibition - through a major change in their metabolism. This work, led by MRA-funded researcher David Fisher at Massachusetts General Hospital and others, revealed that BRAF-mutant melanomas treated with BRAF inhibitors shifted the way they produced energy, thus increasing their ability to survive in spite of treatment. These findings suggest that combination treatment with drugs that target this metabolic pathway (such as agents that target mitochondria, the energy "power plants" of cells) could improve the efficacy of BRAF inhibitors in melanoma.
News and Outreach
Rally for Medical Research
Join MRA in supporting the Rally for Medical Research on April 8, 2013, which will unite millions of Americans across the country to call on our nation's policymakers to make life-saving medical research funding a national priority. This unified call to action will raise awareness about the critical need for a sustained investment in the National Institutes of Health to improve health, spur more progress, inspire more hope and save more lives. Next month, thousands of advocates, survivors, researchers, clinicians, business leaders, and members of the general public will journey to Washington DC to speak with one voice at the Rally for Medical Research.
American Academy of Dermatology Conference
MRA participated in the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Conference earlier this month. This meeting provided an opportunity for MRA to hand out brochures and discuss our mission with meeting participants. Highlights from this year's conference included a dinner hosted by SkinCeuticals, where SkinCeuticals-MRA Young Investigator Barbara Bedogni of Case Western Reserve University spoke about MRA and her Young Investigator Award. Another highlight was the L'Oreal Paris cocktail reception. At the reception, MRA's co-founder Debra Black announced that MRA is developing a multi-faceted collaboration with L'Oreal Paris to support melanoma research and engage in a public-facing awareness and engagement campaign.
MRA featured in FasterCures publications
MRA is pleased to be cited for best practices in venture philanthropy in two new FasterCures publications. The first, Honest Brokers for Cures: How Venture Philanthropy Groups are Changing Biomedical Research, features valuable insights and perspectives from leaders of medical research foundations that are transforming the cure enterprise by virtue of how they find and fund research. Read about MRA on p.10. The second, Measuring and Improving Impact: A Toolkit for Nonprofit Funders of Medical Research, is a how-to guide for foundations seeking to apply some of the best practices and lessons learned from venture philanthropy groups who've demonstrated their effectiveness. MRA is featured on p.18.
MRA welcomes new corporate allies
Collaboration is at MRA's core - from the team approaches to research that we fund to the way we find partners who can help us realize our vision. Over the past two months, we welcomed several new organizations to our growing list of Corporate Allies, including L'Oreal Paris, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, Daiichi Sankyo, EntroGen, James Perse, and Eric Javits.
Researchers uncover new mechanism of melanoma initiation and development
Researchers have uncovered genetic mutations in melanomas that are unlike any they have seen before in cancer. A groundbreaking study published in Science Express and reported in the New York Times, led by MRA-funded researcher Levi Garraway at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, found mutations present in regions that control genes, the so called "dark matter" of cancer. Seventy-one percent of melanoma examined expressed the mutations that cause cells to make more of the enzyme telomerase, which helps keeps cells alive by preventing them from losing the ends of t heir chromosomes. Interestingly, the mutations were indicative of UV-induced damage. In parallel work, a team of researchers in Germany sequenced the genomes of a family with a form of inherited melanoma and discovered the same unexpected findings. This work not only provides new insights into melanoma initiation but also suggests that renewed efforts to develop telomerase inhibitors are warranted.
New prognostic marker identified in ocular melanoma
Melanomas of the eye, which account for about 5 percent of all melanomas, can often be fatal. A new study released in Nature Genetics, led by MRA-funded researcher J. William Harbour of University of Miami, identified a mutated gene in ocular melanoma that appears to predict a good outcome. The mutation is in a gene called SF3B1, whose function in the disease is not yet clear but has also been found to be altered in other cancers. Researchers found that after five years, 20 percent of patients with the SF3B1 mutation developed metastases, compared to nearly 85 percent of patients without the mutation. A few years ago, Dr. Harbour identified another commonly mutated gene in ocular melanoma, BAP1, which is associated with poor prognosis. The SF2B1 mutation was mutually exclu sive of BAP1 in the samples examined. Read more about this research here.
News and Outreach
MRA's Wendy Selig to serve on CTTI Patient Leadership Council
The Clinical Trials Transformative Initiative (CTTI), a public-private partnership led by the FDA and Duke University, recently announced Wendy Selig has been invited to serve on a 16-member Patient Leadership Council (PLC), which is a groundbreaking collective effort to improve the quality and efficiency of clinical trials. The newly formed PLC brings together leaders from advocacy groups and voluntary health agencies to participate in finding innovative solutions to challenges such as patient recruitment and retention.
BIO CEO and Investor Conference
The MRA was one of four non-profit foundations highlighted at the recent 15th Annual BIO CEO and Investor Conference in New York City. This conference is the largest investor conference focused on established and emerging publicy traded biotech companies. MRA had an opportunity to present its work, specifically its unique Academic-Industry Partnership Award grant mechansim. This meeting brought together 1200 biotech executives, venture capitalists and other stakeholders.
New Board Member: Ellen Davis
MRA is pleased to welcome Ellen Davis as a new Board Member. Ellen is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of the JCC Greenwich and is President of UJA in Greenwich, CT, where she resides with her husband, Gary and three children. She also serves as a Trustee at the Horace Mann School and Reach Prep Scholars. Her professional career includes roles in Corporate Finance at Drexel Burnham and High Yield Bond Sales at Merrill Lynch. She is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. A melanoma survivor, Ellen has been active with MRA for the past 4 years, including sponsoring an MRA Young Investigator Award, engaging others in getting to know and ultimately support MRA's research program, and participating in multiple MRA events and activities.
MRA-Stand Up 2 Cancer Laura Linney PSA Update
MRA is thrilled to share the recent success of the MRA-SU2C Laura Linney PSA. Headlined "Wear your Beauty Brilliantly," the PSA is designed to raise awareness about the life-saving benefits of protecting oneself from harmful exposure to UV rays that increase the risk of being diagnosed with melanoma and is the first element in a "Protect Your Skin" campaign. The print PSA has run 45 times in national and regional editions of top magazines and newspapers such as Time, Vogue, Shape, The New Yorker, Town and Country, and The New York Observer that have a combined circulation of more than 100 million. Additionally, digital banners have run on popular websites, such as those of People, Entertainment Weekly, The Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal, generating more than 5 million impressions. To see the PSA, click here. Stay tuned for the next component of this landmark campaign to educate the public about melanoma.
Survivor Story: Kim Rosen
Soon after her 30th birthday, Kim Rosen found a strange little pink lump on the left side of her neck. At first, she was told it was likely nothing, but after a couple of months she started to grow concerned—the lump was becoming larger and more painful. She finally insisted her dermatologist remove it. A few days later, Kim received a call from her doctor saying the pink lump was in fact a rare type of malignant melanoma: one that is actually not caused by the sun and does not portray the ABCDE signs of melanoma. To read more about Kim's story, visit the MRA Website.
Study reveals strategy to delay drug resistance in melanoma
More than half of all people with melanoma express mutated BRAF, which is the target of vemurafenib and other BRAF inhibitors in testing. A significant increase in survival for patients when taking the drug has been shown. However, while their tumors may initially shrink, most people on vemurafenib suffer recurrence in the long run with a lethal, drug-resistant form of melanoma. Elucidating drug resistance mechanisms is a key area of research supported by MRA. A study released on-line this week in Nature led by MRA-funded researcher Martin McMahon of University of California, San Francisco suggests a mechanism for BRAF resistance and a therapeutic strategy to address it. Using mouse models of melanoma, the researchers discovered that tumors become resistant by making more of the BRAF protein. When they stopped administering the drug to mice with the resistant tumors, the tumors once again shrank. Introducing an on-again, off-again treatment schedule prolonged the life of mice with melanoma. Thus, interruption in therapy may be a promising strategy to pursue in clinical testing.
Long term follow up on patients treated with anti-PD-1 suggests agent resets the immune system to fight cancer
Anti-PD-1 is an agent that workS by releasing the "brakes" on the immune system to better fight cancer - a treatment approach whose clinical utility was established with the FDA approval of ipilimumab in 2011. Recently reported Phase 1 clinical testing anti-PD-1 produced positive results in melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer and kidney cancer patients (New England Journal of Medicine, 2012). A new MRA-supported study published in Clinical Cancer Research, led by Suzanne Topalian at Johns Hopkins University and others, describes long term follow up on three patients whose cancers responded to anti-PD-1 in the first-in-human trial of nivolumab. Two of these patients (one with colorectal cancer and one with renal cell carcinoma) had continued tumor regression off therapy, suggesting that the immune system was reset such that it could fight the cancer in the absence of the antibody. A patient with melanoma, who experienced tumor recurrence following a prolonged partial response after stopping therapy, responded after reintroducing anti-PD-1. This latter finding suggests a potential role for "maintenance" therapy to protect patients from tumor regrowth.
News and Outreach
New Cancer Immunology Dream Team Announced
Last month, Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) and the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) announced a three year, $10 million Dream Team grant that will accelerate new cancer immunotherapies. MRA's co-founder Debra Black serves as a patient advocate for the new Immunology Dream Team, which brings together a leading group of immunologists working to improve the body's natural ability to fight cancer. Immunotherapeutic approaches play a central role in melanoma research and treatment, and many of the Dream Team members are also conducting MRA-supported research that complements their Dream Team project. MRA is also pleased to be partnering with SU2C in joint support of a Melanoma Dream Team, which commenced its important work in 2012.
MRA Welcomes New Panel Members
- Mace Rothenberg, MD, Senior Vice President, Clinical Development & Medical Affairs, Pfizer Inc.
- David Polsky, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Dermatology and Pathology Director, Pigmented Lesion Section NYU Langone Medical Center Joan and Joel Smilow Research Center
MRA Publishes New Brochure
MRA has recently launched its latest brochure which documents ongoing efforts to fast-forward a cure for melanoma. The new brochure features the ways in which MRA is working toward a cure through arch, fostering collaboration to amplify its reach, and leveraging progress through policy change.
MRA Receives BBB Rating
MRA has recently received a positive rating from the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance standards for charity accountability. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance helps donors make informed giving decisions and advances high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public. Check out MRA's BBB page for information about this accreditation.
Death rates from melanoma are on the rise
A report released this week found that while incidence rates have declined for many cancers, melanoma rates increased from 2000 to 2009. Notably, among men, death rates from melanoma are on the rise. These data illustrate the urgency of MRA's mission to accelerate research to better prevent, detect, and treat melanoma to reverse this trend and provide better options for patients and those at risk. To read more about these recent findings, see the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer.
Resolve to Reduce Your Risk This Year
Make it your New Year’s Resolution to reduce your risk of melanoma. Melanoma is a growing, global problem with 132,000 new cases diagnosed around the world each year. 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; avoid tanning beds; and pay attention to changes in your skin. Visit our Web site for other tips to reduce your risk.”
Spread the Word about Melanoma
This year, we hope you will help us spread the word about melanoma. "Friend" us, "like" us, and "follow" our updates! 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.
- 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.