Letter from the President
MRA-funded scientists include the world’s leading experts in their fields
From everyone here at the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), we wish you a healthy and happy holiday season and extend our heartfelt gratitude for an amazing year of progress and collaboration. We are so thankful for the tremendous support we received this year from so many people who share our passion for defeating melanoma. Every year at this time we reflect on the preceding 12 months with admiration for the extraordinary efforts of the researchers, scientists, clinicians, and patients working together to accelerate better treatments and, ultimately, cures for this devastating disease.
And 2013 did not disappoint in terms of bringing significant progress! Over the course of the year, the FDA approved two new therapies for metastatic melanoma, a landmark study was published showing remarkable long-term survival trends for an existing melanoma treatment, and many companies released promising new data on their clinical-stage compounds, demonstrating great promise in the next generation of melanoma therapies.
Excitement within the melanoma research and patient communities continues to grow as more late-stage patients finally see effective treatment options. Even while celebrating this progress for patients and their families, as well as everyone at risk for melanoma, MRA remains hard at work helping to translate and build upon these exciting scientific discoveries. We are committed to working with all stakeholders to defeat melanoma, from our donors, to our allies, to industry partners and government leaders.
Here are just a few of MRA’s 2013 highlights as we wage this fight:
- * We awarded a record total of $10.6 million in high-impact research grants, bringing our cumulative grant-making total to more than $49 million for 118 research projects worldwide.
- * Our best-ever Annual Scientific Retreat brought together leaders from across industry, government, and advocacy for an intense, interactive meeting aimed at galvanizing the field of melanoma research.
- * We launched a pioneering collaboration with L’Oréal Paris that includes their generous support for an MRA Team Science Award and a multi-media campaign to increase awareness and education about melanoma.
- * MRA held several record-breaking fundraising events, including the Second Annual Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma event, as well as our Third Benefit Dinner at Sotheby’s New York, which together raised well over $7 million, all of which is being used to support our game-changing research program.
- * With leadership from MRA, the Office of the Surgeon General and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a joint Call to Action on the prevention of skin cancer through the reduction of ultraviolet (UV) exposure. This collaboration recognizes skin cancer and melanoma as public health concerns and is the first step toward establishing a nationwide public health agenda aimed at defeating melanoma.
With all of this progress on multiple fronts, we believe the next year holds great promise in the battle against this disease. Your continued support is critical to our ability to capitalize on the growing momentum in the field. Thank you for helping to generate unprecedented support in 2013, and for your continued friendship and support of MRA and our transformative research program as we all work toward a future when no one suffers or dies from melanoma.
Acting President and CEO
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.
Letter from the President
We are on the cusp of another holiday season, and the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) is continuing our work to bring more progress to patients and their families. I am thrilled about the pace at which our circle of supporters, friends, and allies continues to grow, helping MRA break fundraising records in order to fund the most impactful research projects.
|MRA's Co-Founder and Chair welcomes guests to MRA's benefit dinner|
In mid-November, 180 MRA supporters gathered at Sotheby’s New York for our biannual benefit dinner and helped raise a record-breaking $6 million for our scientific research program. It was moving to see the engagement taking place at the dinner, with melanoma patients talking with researchers from academia and industry, everyone working together to develop new treatments for this disease. We are so grateful to everyone who participated in the evening's remarkable success and memorable program.
This past week, we participated in the Society for Melanoma Research’s Annual Congress meeting in Philadelphia. Highlights of the meeting included presentations from 35 MRA-supported researchers and new data on anti-PD-1 treatments, rational combinations, and other approaches to defeating melanoma. MRA’s meeting highlights can be read here.
The first round of deadlines for MRA’s 2014 Request For Proposals (RFP) has passed, and yielded many promising applications from institutions around the world. MRA’s Grant Review Committee has already begun the process of vetting the applications, a process that will continue into 2014. MRA plans to award at least $9 million in new research awards early next spring.
With Thanksgiving and the gift-giving season approaching, MRA is grateful for your continued generous support. As you plan your charitable giving during the holiday season, I encourage you to participate in MRA’s Giving Tuesday campaign that is seeking to use social media and online donations to raise $9,480 on December 3rd--$1 for every person in the U.S. who will lose their battle with melanoma in 2013.
As always, 100% of your donation to MRA will support our world-class melanoma research programs, helping us work toward that day when no one will suffer or die from melanoma.
Acting President and CEO
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.
Letter from the President
Against the backdrop of turmoil in the federal government, the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) has been working to accelerate the pace of progress for melanoma research without missing a beat. We have been busy with RFP deadlines , outreach visits, conference participation, and many other initiatives. We are privileged to welcome two new members to MRA’s Board of Directors: Cindy Hensley McCain, Humanitarian and Businesswoman, and Dr. Elliott Sigal, Former Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb. These new members each have broad experience and capabilities that will help MRA move the field forward during this exciting time for melanoma research. MRA’s full press release on the new members can be read here.
It has also been an exciting month for melanoma research. MRA staff and many MRA-supported investigators attended both the European Cancer Congress (ECC) 2013 Meeting and the AACR Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics Conference. MRA’s statement on melanoma highlights from the ECC meeting is available here. Additionally, several of MRA’s leading investigators were quoted in a recent New York Times article on the power of cancer immunotherapies. The article recognizes melanoma as a test case for this therapeutic approach to fighting cancer.
Earlier this month, MRA released its 2012-2013 snapshot progress report and financials. The full report is available on our website and chronicles the organization’s activities and progress made in the fight against melanoma over the past year. So far, 2013 has seen two new treatments for melanoma approved by the U.S. FDA, and the melanoma pipeline has never held more potential for new approaches to fighting the disease.
While the government shutdown and budget crisis have been temporarily resolved, the NIH budget cuts and climate of research funding uncertainty are likely to carry over into 2014. At such a critical point in time for melanoma research, MRA and other stakeholders must step up to help advance the field forward and turn scientific potential into tangible results for patients. As the holiday season approaches, please remember MRA and our mission. Share our materials with your friends and family, spread the message of melanoma prevention and awareness, and help us continue to fund groundbreaking melanoma research.
Acting President and CEO
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.
Letter from the President
It’s hard to believe that summer is gone and fall is already here, bringing the 113th Congress back to Washington, D.C., for a series of appropriations and debt ceiling decisions that could significantly affect the progress of critical scientific research in the United States. With these issues in mind, the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) has been engaging in outreach and advocacy activities to help communicate the importance of medical research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DoD).
The melanoma treatment pipeline was again in the news this month, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that two recently-approved melanoma treatments have been granted the agency’s priority review status for use in combination to treat metastatic melanoma. The two treatments were approved for independent use in the United States in May of 2013.
Last week, MRA staff and leadership participated in an intensive two-day retreat, developing innovative plans and activities that will be implemented in the coming months. As part of the retreat, MRA hosted a luncheon with Board members, allies and patients to discuss the latest in breakthrough melanoma research. Guest speaker and MRA-awardee Richard White, M.D., Ph.D, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, presented his novel research into melanoma metastasis using a zebrafish model. Dr. White even brought along a few of his subjects, helping attendees gain a more comprehensive understanding of his project and its significance in translating melanoma research from the lab to patients. Thank you to Dr. White and all of those who were able to join MRA for the occasion.
MRA’s 2013-2014 Request For Proposals (RFP) is still open, seeking promising ideas that address the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of melanoma. With submission deadlines approaching, please be sure to share this RFP with your scientific colleagues and do not hesitate to contact the MRA team with any questions.
Thank you for your support as MRA works to vanquish this deadly disease. Our combined efforts along the policy, scientific, and public awareness fronts are beginning to move the needle against melanoma. With the ongoing support of our donors, supporters and allies, we are confident that we will see the day when no one suffers or dies from melanoma.
Acting President and CEO
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.
Letter from the President
We hope you are enjoying the waning days of summer. As much as summer brings heightened focus on the dangers of sun exposure and skin safety, the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) works year-round to advance melanoma treatment options and spread the message of melanoma prevention and awareness. So with the advent of fall, MRA is taking the opportunity to leverage the coming new season to build upon the many promising developments that have occurred in recent weeks.
We are thrilled to have released MRA’s seventh annual Request for Proposals (RFP) last week, offering at least $8 million in research awards to be distributed during our next grants cycle. We urge you to share the RFP, which includes our first-ever Regional Special Opportunity,with your friends, colleagues, and other networks. In addition, MRA is reviewing the innovative proposals received in response to our special opportunity for the study of acral melanoma. And this month MRA is pleased to announce the addition of several wonderful new experts and field leaders to our Scientific Advisory Panel and to welcome the new leadership of our Grant Review Committee.
There is real momentum in our efforts to enhance prevention of melanoma through public policy. As I write, the Governor of Illinois has just signed a law banning minors (anyone under 18) from using indoor tanning booths. There are now six states with such bans, ensuring that more than one quarter of the U.S. population now lives in a state where it is illegal for minors to use tanning beds. In a long-overdue, parallel development, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued proposed tanning bed regulations relating to the labeling of those devices, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Office of the Surgeon General have launched a process to establish a concerted public health strategy aimed at melanoma and other skin cancers. These milestone activities would simply not be happening if it weren't for the tremendous efforts of multiple stakeholders and individuals working tirelessly around the country to elevate these issues to federal, state, and local policymakers.
We received exciting news from Capitol Hill earlier this month, when the Senate Subcommittee on Defense (DoD) Appropriations, led by Senators Richard Durbin (IL) and Thad Cochran (MS) proposed a pool of research dollars for research on melanoma and four other cancers as part of the DoD’s medical research program. This marks the first time that the Senate Subcommittee has specifically called out melanoma as an important priority for the Department, recognizing the burden of skin cancer on the armed forces. The bill still faces challenges moving through the legislative process, but MRA’s founders and leadership have been instrumental in moving it this far and will continue to press for implementation of enhanced funding for melanoma research.
Combined with the continued exciting progress in the research arena, all of these developments point to unprecedented opportunity to make a real difference in the future course of melanoma. MRA looks forward to working with our many allies and supporters to pursue our singular goal of defeating melanoma.
Acting President and CEO
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.
Letter from the President
The pace of progress continues on the heels of Melanoma Awareness Month, as the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) works to capitalize on the many opportunities to deliver on our mission. The tremendous efforts of our allies in generating awareness and research support during May, coupled with the landmark American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in early June have fueled momentum that is now carrying over into our planning for the next grant cycle, our Scientific Retreat, and even our May 2014 outreach plans, which include the third annual Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma (LFFM) event.
We had a unique and impactful opportunity to raise awareness about melanoma and our work this week, when MRA rang the Closing Bell of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Surrounded by MRA leadership and supporters, MRA Co-Founder and Chair Debra Black rang the bell on the NYSE trading floor on Tuesday, June 25th. You can watch a video of the ceremony here.
The results from this year’s Melanoma Awareness Month activities continue to come in, breaking records as they do. During May 2013, MRA engaged in a multifaceted social media and outreach campaign as part of Melanoma Awareness Month. With the help of our many corporate allies, we succeeded in driving social media engagement with MRA to unprecedented levels. A summary of our alliance and outreach activities is included in this newsletter, and the team is already busy planning ways to grow our footprint for May 2014.
Tremendous melanoma developments and news came out of this year’s ASCO meeting, and the MRA team was on-site at the meeting in the thick of it all. The team conducted meetings and outreach with potential academic and corporate partners, met with leading clinicians and researchers, and provided expert commentary to the ongoing melanoma treatment dialogue. More than 40 MRA-sponsored investigators presented during the meeting, and it was exhilarating to see the wider oncology community take notice of the strides being made in the melanoma field. You can read MRA’s statement on the ASCO meeting here. We have also released the formal summary of our 2013 Scientific Retreat, which can be found here.
As summer stretches ahead, MRA will continue to work at an inspired pace, laying the groundwork for our 2014 grant cycle and Request for Proposals, our next Scientific Retreat, and an even bigger and better Melanoma Awareness Month in 2014. We are excited to be the charity partner with the American Idol® Live! Tour 2013 throughout their nationwide summer Tour, which kicks off later this month. And watch this space for news of additional innovative social media campaigns to keep the buzz about melanoma going all the way through Labor Day.
None of this work would be possible without the continued, unwavering support of our founders, friends, and partners. Thank you for your ongoing engagement with MRA as we work together to defeat this deadly disease. Have a sun-safe and enjoyable summer.
Acting President and CEO
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).
Letter from the President
By now you have no doubt seen some of the exciting news coverage stemming from this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago (May 31-June 4). Having just returned from that landmark conference, the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) team is energized by the progress reported during what more than one participant has dubbed “the Melanoma ASCO.”
The ASCO meeting is the premier annual meeting bringing together approximately 30,000 of the world’s clinicians, scientists, non-profits and companies focused on every aspect of oncology, and this year it provided the high-profile platform for dozens of lectures, presentations, poster sessions and media releases on progress in melanoma. Major conference sessions focused on dramatic results from several promising areas of inquiry relevant to improved prognosis and outcomes for melanoma patients. Scientific progress from more than 40 MRA-sponsored researchers was featured, with many MRA-funded investigators presenting and leading sessions discussing new findings.
Key findings presented at this year’s meeting included reports on the clinical testing of immune checkpoint inhibitors targeting a pathway known as PD-1. 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 and other cancers as well. To date, MRA has awarded more than $10 million related to immune checkpoint blockade, including defining treatment-related biomarkers and developing combinatorial therapy approaches.
In the area of molecularly targeted therapy, which MRA has also supported with millions of dollars in high-impact research awards, resistance mechanisms to BRAF inhibition were highlighted along with the potential for new drugs targeting BRAF and its downstream target, MEK. Taken together, these studies demonstrate strong continued focus on understanding the molecular drivers of melanoma in the search for improved therapies.
In the days before ASCO, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two new drugs for advanced, metastatic melanoma patients with activating mutations of BRAF. These two drugs from GlaxoSmithKline are known as dabrafenib (Tafinlar®) and trametinib (Mekinist®). This brings the number of new drugs approved for melanoma patients to a total of four over the last two years with ipilimumab (Yervoy®, ipi) and vemurafenib (Zelboraf®) approved in 2011 – an exceptional number of drugs to be approved for a disease in a very compressed period of time, especially where so few options had previously been available.
All of this activity is solidifying 2013 as another banner year for progress in melanoma research. MRA is working to accelerate the pace of discovery in the field, with our recently announced, record-setting $9.6 million in 2013 grant awards. We are gearing up for our next funding cycle, with plans to offer millions more for a next series of grants designed to build upon this year’s momentum as we work to defeat melanoma once and for all.
This year’s ASCO conference was titled “Building Bridges to Conquer Cancer,” a theme that resonates with the alliance-driven model of MRA and our ongoing efforts to engage diverse stakeholders in our work. MRA’s Team Science and Industry Partnership awards exemplify the types of bridges that can drive progress in melanoma research and create tangible advances in the wider field of oncology. We are so grateful to all of our supporters and allies for your ongoing engagement. With so much progress taking place, now is the time for us to press forward with renewed energy and focus. Help support MRA as we work to build bridges that will further accelerate research and treatments for melanoma.
Acting President and CEO
Letter from the President
Melanoma Awareness Month is in full swing, and, with your help, we have been hard at work to make a larger impact than ever this May. I am pleased to share a brief update on the status of our May campaigns and outreach activities and provide a preview of MRA’s upcoming activities.
The skin health and melanoma communities kicked off May with Melanoma Monday, a coordinated effort to raise melanoma awareness on the first Monday of May. MRA joined many of our corporate and nonprofit allies as we used social media platforms to spread awareness and provide opportunities for public engagement in funding melanoma research. MRA staff also participated in the American Academy of Dermatology’s Spot Orange™ campaign, sporting orange clothing and engaging in social media outreach to raise melanoma awareness. We are well poised to enter the penultimate part of the month, with Don’t FryDay and Memorial Day Weekend outreach.
Earlier this week, we held the second annual Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma event in New York City’s Rockefeller Center. More than 800 attendees from the leveraged finance community and surrounding industries spent the evening networking and raising funds for MRA’s melanoma research. So far the event has generated more than $1.2 million, with donations still coming in as I write. Look for a full recap and event photos on our website and in the next newsletter. We are so grateful to event hosts Jeffrey Rowbottom of KKR and Brendan Dillon of UBS for their incredible leadership of this annual event.
As you know, MRA launched several innovative collaborations and campaigns during the first half of May, including our Danny Fund social media fundraising campaign. The campaign has already generated significant buzz, with Bruce Springsteen and American Idol’s Phillip Phillips sharing the campaign with their social media followers. We have plans to extend the campaign’s reach beyond the month of May, so stay tuned for more details. We would also like to thank mGive, AT&T, Backstreets Magazine and the Federici family for their ongoing support of this effort. You can participate in the campaign by texting DANNY to 50555, then replying YES to confirm your $10 donation to MRA.*
Engagement with our May allies has reached new heights this month. The stories of MRA Co-Founder Debra Black and other MRA supporters are featured on the Bergdorf Goodman blog as part of the BGSafeSun beauty campaign. MRA also participated in a skin health Twitter party with ally First Aid Beauty, and continues to promote all of our May alliances on the MRA website and through social media. Full updates on these alliances and the overall impact of our May outreach will be forthcoming once the month concludes.
Our initiatives in the remaining portion of May include launching an MRA blog this week, providing us with another channel through which we can interact with our supporters. Check it out at: http://curemelanoma.wordpress.com/
As soon as Melanoma Awareness Month concludes, we will be on our way to the Annual ASCO Meeting in Chicago, where MRA-funded investigators will once again be headlining major announcements about progress in the fight against this disease. Watch this space for updates about the major melanoma stories from that landmark conference,
Thank you for everything you are doing to further this cause. We encourage everyone to remain engaged with us through social media to help spread our message of melanoma awareness and generate vital funds for melanoma research.
Acting President and CEO
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.
Letter from the President
Acting President and CEO
Letter from the President
I am delighted to share with you the news that the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) is awarding a record-setting $9.6 million in new research grants to develop improved means to prevent, detect, and treat melanoma. At such a critical moment of opportunity in the fight against this deadly disease, new funding for the most impactful research will provide the fuel to make even more progress for melanoma patients and all who are at risk. MRA's 2013 slate of awards brings the total awarded by MRA in its six-year history to almost $48 million, provided to 168 investigators at 80 institutions in 13 countries. The recipients of our 2013 awards represent forward-thinking, cutting edge ideas to answer critical questions in the field including genetic factors underlying risk and new treatment approaches that will cure or control melanoma once it has spread. As last week's landmark annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) demonstrated once again, this is an extraordinary time in the field of melanoma research, and MRA-funded research is leading the way toward changing the course of this disease.
The newly-funded proposals underwent vigorous review and discussion by MRA's Grant Review Committee. A total of 20 awards were made to 49 scientists at leading academic institutions around the world. Among the proposals is research to accelerate new therapeutic approaches for dealing with metastatic melanoma, including combination therapies, as well as a focus on greater understanding of melanoma's initiation. We congratulate all of the awardees for their ongoing commitment to this important field of inquiry and we are thrilled to welcome so many new, outstanding researchers and clinicians to the MRA family. For a full description of the grants and awardees, please visit the Research Overview page.
This round of funding includes unique collaborations that amplify MRA's research in the field of melanoma and leverages an additional $2 million in matching funds, bringing the total amount of leveraged funding provided by other sources as a result of MRA funding to $42.6million. MRA has designated five new Academic-Industry Partnership Awards this year, involving participations by Aduro Biotech, Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Merck & Co., Inc., and Pfizer, Inc. Notably, the two Pfizer Academic-Industry Partnership Awards were awarded in response to an innovative and pioneering jointly offered special opportunity that was part of MRA's most recent Request for Proposals.
This is the largest annual grant cycle MRA has ever conducted – from the record number of proposals received to the numbers and reach of the grants awarded. Our ability to provide this level of support at such a critical moment is made possible through the generous contributions of individuals, families and corporate allies made throughout this past year. We are extraordinarily grateful to everyone who has worked with us to generate support for lifesaving research and are pleased to note that this year's awards include multiple projects with designated sponsorship by our supporters, including: The Danny Fund-MRA Young Investigator Award, four Stewart Rahr-MRA Young Investigator Awards (for a total of 8 Stewart-Rahr-MRA Young Investigators), the Helman Family Young Investigator Award, the Suzette and Steve Kolitch-MRA Young Investigator Award, the Ellis Family-MRA Young Investigator Award in Memory of Hal Ellis (co-funded support), the Duke-MRA Young Investigator Award in Honor of Frank Courtney (co-funded support), the Christie's-MRA Team Science Award, the Sokoloff Family-MRA Team Science Award, the Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma-MRA Academic Industry Partnership Award and the L'Oreal Paris-MRA Team Science Award.
Many of these awards are part of multi-faceted collaborations with our allies, including the Danny Fund and the Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma programs, whose affiliations with the MRA has not only generated tremendous financial support for research, but have also helped to propel education and awareness among the public about the risks of melanoma. In one of our newest, most exciting collaborations, we are thrilled about the L'Oreal Paris-MRA collaboration, which in addition to providing support for a Team Science Award in this cycle, will also reach millions of people through a consumer-facing awareness campaign.
Once again, we want to thank you for your ongoing engagement with MRA. We could not be making such progress without the active participation and support of so many friends, supporters and allies. We salute the scientists and clinicians whose perseverance and dedication is at the core of the progress we are now seeing and look forward to the day when no one suffers or dies from melanoma.
Acting President and CEO
Letter from the President
The Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) welcomed approximately 200 of the world's leading clinicians, scientists and stakeholders to our Fifth Annual Scientific Retreat in Washington, DC. The retreat brought together leaders in melanoma research, including MRA-funded investigators from seven countries and 50 academic institutions; senior leadership from 20 companies, eight foundations and the major federal government agencies with engagement in the melanoma field. Participants shared early findings of cutting-edge research, identified future directions, discussed collaboration ideas, and explored synergies and partnerships to accelerate progress in our effort to defeat melanoma. As in prior years, we will produce a summary report in May that will summarize the highlights and key themes emerging from this highly productive Scientific Retreat.
The level of discussion and collaborative interaction that occurred at the MRA Retreat inspires us anew to foster the enhanced progress and accelerated discovery on behalf of melanoma patients and everyone at risk. With the opportunities that now exist to define novel targets, enhance understanding of melanoma's causes and mechanisms of progression, and improve tools for prevention, detection and diagnosis – MRA is committed to ensuring that resources continue to flow for the most impactful research projects. In the coming weeks MRA will announce its 2013 Grants, with a record level of funding to support transformational science.
As we gear up for Melanoma Awareness Month this May, we are inspired by the growing army of participants in this fight to better prevent, detect, treat and ultimately cure melanoma. Watch for announcements about the innovative campaigns that MRA is launching with our allies. Thank you again for all of your encouragement and ongoing support for our efforts.
Acting President and CEO
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.
Letter from the President
With 2013 well underway, the momentum for melanoma research continues to build. 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 90 alliances in the fight against melanoma. We are grateful for the support of each of our allies and welcome the collaboration of anyone who wishes to partner with us.
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 science and our efforts to accelerate progress toward a cure for melanoma.
Thank you for your continued support of our work.
Acting President and CEO
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.
Letter from the President
I am delighted to announce that Louise M. Perkins, Ph.D., will join the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) as our first full-time Chief Science Officer (CSO). This is an exciting milestone for MRA and reflects just how far our organization and the entire melanoma research community have come in catalyzing progress and opportunity for melanoma patients and all who are at risk.
Since MRA was launched in late 2007, Suzanne L. Topalian, M.D., Professor of Surgery and Oncology, and Director of the Melanoma Program at John Hopkins University's Sidney Kimmell Comprehensive Cancer Center, has successfully led the organization's scientific program on a part-time basis. Dr. Topalian, who has been instrumental in MRA's trajectory and success, has agreed to remain actively engaged with MRA in an advisory role to MRA's Board and leadership as Chair of our Scientific Advisory Panel and member of the Grant Review Committee.
In her new role with MRA, Dr. Perkins will be responsible for guiding our scientific strategy and overseeing the organization's peer-reviewed grant-making program and scientific collaborations, a portfolio for which she is highly qualified and to which she brings a unique set of skills and experiences.
With the incredible progress that is occurring in the field, this is the perfect moment for MRA to be enhancing its reach and impact in the field and among all stakeholders. The enormous advances that have been made fuel our commitment to accelerating research toward a time when no one suffers or dies from melanoma. Dr. Perkins' accomplishments and deep knowledge of cancer biology, drug development, venture philanthropy and innovative approaches to collaboration will propel MRA and the field further toward achieving that goal.
Dr. Perkins comes to MRA after having spent five years as CSO at the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), and a distinguished industry career that included leadership of oncology research programs at Bayer Pharmaceuticals and Schering-Plough.
While at MMRF, Dr. Perkins was responsible for the development and execution of the foundation's scientific strategy, and also led the continued expansion of its venture philanthropy investments. Under her guidance, MMRF's Genomics Initiative enabled the sequencing of the first myeloma tumor genome and the analysis of 250 myeloma patient samples with an array of genomic technologies, including next-gen sequencing. Prior to her role at MMRF, she was Director of Cancer Research at Bayer Pharmaceuticals, and previously she led a cancer research group at the Schering-Plough Research Institute.
Dr. Perkins holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Biological Chemistry from the University of Michigan, and has conducted postdoctoral studies at Princeton University's Department of Molecular Biology. She has a B.S. in Zoology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
MRA is thrilled to welcome Dr. Perkins as our new full-time CSO. She will be leading us forward based upon the extraordinary foundation that has been built under Dr. Topalian's leadership and with Dr. Topalian's ongoing engagement. With this stellar team in place, MRA is prepared to maximize the unprecedented opportunity to bring better options and outcomes to melanoma patients and everyone who is at risk.
We remain grateful to all of our stakeholders, supporter and allies for the guidance and engagement as we continue to pursue our mission of defeating melanoma.
Acting President and CEO
Letter from the President
On behalf of the Melanoma Research Alliance, we wish you a very Happy New Year. Thanks to the remarkable progress in 2012 on behalf of our mission to defeat melanoma, we begin this new year with great hope and renewed commitment for our cause. Through research awards, high-level collaboration, and policy advancement, MRA is making quick strides to ensure the development of more effective melanoma preventive, diagnostic, and treatment approaches.
We continue to see promising outcomes from our current grants. In fact, in this issue, we highlight two new MRA-funded research studies that describe potential therapeutic scheduling strategies to sustain anti-tumor responses of both molecularly targeted therapy and immunotherapy. MRA plans to award at least $7 million in new funding this year.
As 2012 came to a close, we received the news that MRA has been certified by the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance. As we continue our work to generate the engagement and resources necessary to fund the most promising research projects, we are proud to meet all 20 of the Alliance's standards for best practice among non-profit organizations.
With an increasing number of individuals and families touched by melanoma seeking to engage with our mission, we are pleased to offer a new tool to facilitate those efforts, the Melanoma Research Alliance Personal Fundraising Center. This user-friendly site allows people to create individualized pages through which they can encourage the participation of friends and family, make contributions in memory or honor of a loved one and generate support for their participation in a marathon, triathlon or other organized event. The site also allows the creator to customize text, post images, send out personalized emails and track fundraising progress.
Thanks to the continued support and active engagement of so many individuals, families, organizations and corporate allies, MRA is making tremendous progress toward our goal of bringing new treatments to the bedside and speeding the day when no one suffers or dies from melanoma.
Acting President and CEO
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.