As we near the end of summer, we hope you take to heart the many messages of skin cancer prevention and remember to stay sun safe all year round. MRA has been working to raise awareness of the dangers of melanoma, promote sun safe behaviors, and fund innovative melanoma research. This month, we are pleased to share the incredible progress on all fronts in our mission to reduce the deadly toll of melanoma.
At MRA, we continue to accelerate progress for melanoma prevention, detection, and treatment through innovative collaborations across sectors. We’re especially thrilled to be partnering with the LUNGevity Foundation and the Lung Cancer Research Foundation in a unique collaboration to co-fund research to further the body of knowledge of brain metastases in both lung cancer and melanoma. Building on the historic slate of grants we announced in May, we are also preparing for our next grant cycle, which launches this August with a Request for Proposals (RFP).
Exciting policy news made national headlines last week as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer, a report calling for a national health agenda to address the dangers of skin cancer and melanoma. This report resulted from a meeting over two years ago when MRA joined forces with Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Howard Koh and launched a 22-month long collaboration that brought together U.S. health agencies in a joint mission to reduce the deadly toll of skin cancer and melanoma. MRA was honored to be recognized by Dr. Koh as one of the leading “partners in prevention” for this milestone. In addition to this historic call to action, the House of Representatives passed the Sunscreen Innovation Act with overwhelming bipartisan support, sending the bill on to the Senate for consideration.
We’ve continued to build upon the momentum from Melanoma Awareness Month and have broadened our reach and impact through collaborative partnerships with American Idol, J.Crew, and Health Guru Media to raise awareness and fund our melanoma research program. Through traditional media and social media campaigns, we are leading the charge in melanoma prevention and directing critical resources to the field of melanoma research. We’re also pleased to share our brand new brochure which highlights the unique ways in which we maximize our impact to speed cures for patients.
With so much progress at hand, there are many reasons to be hopeful. From Expanded Access Programs for advanced melanoma patients to a national public health agenda to fight skin cancer, these exciting developments fuel our mission and reaffirm our belief that a cure for melanoma is near. Thank you again for all your continuing support for our work and we hope you’ll join us in looking forward to new opportunities to advance our mission to end all suffering and death from melanoma.
Wendy K.D. Selig
President and CEO
MRA Joins Forces with LUNGevity and LCRF in Unique Research Collaboration
MRA has partnered with the LUNGevity Foundation and the Lung Cancer Research Foundation to co-fund new innovative research on PD-1 inhibitor treatment options for both non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and metastatic melanoma (MM) patients with brain metastases. The award recipient is Lucia Jilaveanu, M.D., Ph.D., Yale University, for her project Response to PD-1 Inhibitors in Melanoma and Lung Cancer Patients with Brain Metastases. This unique research collaboration between lung cancer and melanoma funders reflects the shared urgency on this area of research. Individuals with NSCLC have the highest incidence of brain metastases among all cancers, and melanoma has the highest likelihood to metastasize to the brain once the disease has spread. You can read a recent press release here.
MRA Hails Expanded Access Program for Advanced Melanoma
As options for late-stage melanoma patients continue to evolve, MRA hailed the launch of an Expanded Access Program (EAP) that allows late-stage melanoma patients to receive nivolumab (Opdivo), Bristol-Myers Squibb’s investigational anti-PD1 immunotherapy in combination with ipilimumab (Yervoy), an approved immunotherapy. MRA has been actively working to encourage access to these therapies in late-stage development for more melanoma patients, and we are pleased this opportunity for patients has emerged. Allowing expanded access to a potentially effective combination therapy could make a difference in the lives of patients and their families. More information on this combination therapy EAP can be found at clinicaltrials.gov.
Atlantic Article on Immunotherapy Features MRA-Supported Investigator
The breakthrough status of immunotherapy continues to make headlines, this time garnering the spotlight in The Atlantic. The article “Can Doctors Teach the Body to Cure Cancer?” features the work of melanoma expert and MRA-supported investigator, Dr. Jedd Wolchok of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. You can read the article here.
EVENTS AND ALLIANCES
Stand Up To Cancer Returns in September
MRA is pleased to once again partner with Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) as a major donor and collaborator. The historic fundraising telecast returns to primetime television on Friday, September 5, 2014, and will provide a national platform to garner support for innovative research like the SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team. Led by Dr. Jeffrey Trent of Translational Genomics Research Center and Dr. Patricia LoRusso of the Yale Cancer Center, the Melanoma Dream Team investigates the application of targeted therapy identification in patients with BRAF wild type (BRAFwt) melanoma. MRA is also pleased to be funding a critical component of the Immunology Dream Team focused on melanoma patients treated by single agents and in combination, led by Drs. James Allison of MD Anderson Cancer Center and Drew Pardoll of Johns Hopkins.
The American Idol®Live! Tour Continues
MRA leadership enjoyed the star treatment on July 6 when the American Idol® Live! Tour hit Vienna, VA. As the Tour’s charitable partner, MRA is receiving $1 for every ticket purchased to fund our research program and aid efforts to cure melanoma. The Tour kicked off June 24 and is hitting 40 different cities across the U.S. through August 23. Tickets can be purchased at www.AmericanIdol.com/tour.
Brentwood Grand Prix Races for Melanoma Research
On August 3, Velo Club La Grange, Southern California’s largest cycling club, hosted the Brentwood Grand Prix where cycling enthusiasts raced to benefit MRA and our melanoma research program. The event offered free skin cancer screenings and offered sun safety tips for the entire crowd.
J.Crew SmartSun Campaign
Throughout the month of July, J.Crew partnered with MRA to raise funds for melanoma research and promote sun safety through the #JCrewSmartSun campaign. J.Crew donated $1 to MRA for each photo that was shared on Instagram incorporating sun safety and tagged with #JCrewSmartSun. Check out the creative photos of everyone—from Southern California to Istanbul—as they stayed smart in the sun.
The Big Orange Foundation Supports Melanoma Research
MRA is pleased to be working with The Wayne Stinchcomb Big Orange Foundation, which has provided funding to MRA in support of our research program. As always, 100% of all donations to MRA directly fund melanoma research.
OUTREACH AND VISIBILITY
New Videos in Collaboration with Health Guru Media
In partnership with Health Guru Media, MRA debuted two new videos featuring Dr. Jedd Wolchok speaking on the advances in immunotherapy, future FDA approval, and the potential impact for patients. Both videos are available via our YouTube channel and Health Guru’s website, a platform for health videos that has garnered over 1 billion views since 2006.
MRA Releases New Brochure
The new MRA Brochure: Powerful Research. Faster Results. features the ways in which we are working toward a cure through cutting-edge research, collaboration with all stakeholders to amplify our reach, and policy change to leverage progress for the entire field of melanoma. The brochure, designed by Phil & Co., was cited for creative excellence in the 29th annual American Graphic Design & Advertising (AGDA) Awards, chosen from among tens of thousands of entries.
CSO Louise Perkins Featured in Radio Broadcast on Melanoma
MRA CSO Louise Perkins, Ph.D., participated in the radio broadcast program, “What You Need To Know About Melanoma,” hosted by Linda House and produced by the Cancer Support Community. April K.S. Salama, MD, of Duke University, and Donna Piunt, melanoma survivor and blogger at The Cancer Spot, also joined the broadcast to discuss the melanoma experience, from prevention through survivorship.
Surgeon General Sounds Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer
The U.S. Surgeon General has released the first-ever report on prevention of skin cancer and melanoma. MRA leadership provided the catalyst for this milestone event nearly two years ago in asking Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Howard Koh and Acting US Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak to address the mounting public health crises of melanoma and skin cancer. With MRA continuing to drive the process over the last 22 months, the Call to Action lays out key areas of focus, including an emphasis on tanning beds, sunscreens and filling research gaps. Read MRA’s press release here.
House of Representatives Passes Sunscreen Innovation Act
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Sunscreen Innovation Act, sponsored by Representatives Ed Whitfield and John Dingell. You can read MRA’s full statement here. We expect the Senate to follow suit with its bill (led by Senators Jack Reed and Johnny Isakson) in September, implementing an important statutory change that will break the current logjam of FDA review and approval of innovative sunscreen agents to help prevent melanoma and all skin cancer. MRA has been a leading member of the Public Access to Sunscreens coalition (PASS Coalition), along with other foundations, dermatologists and companies like L’Oreal and BASF. Wendy Selig was featured in a TV segment broadcast by Al Jazeera America on skin cancer and quoted in the Wall Street Journal on the need to provide the public with access to better sunscreens and the public health imperative for the passage of this bill.
Unprecedented Increase in DoD Funding for Melanoma Research
MRA has been a leading force behind the scenes in securing an unprecedented increase from the U.S. Senate Department of Defense (DoD) Subcommittee in the Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP) for 12 cancers as part of the Fiscal Year 2015 DoD Appropriations Bill. The Senate Committee, led by Senator Dick Durbin, has provided $50 million for this fund, doubling what was allocated in the previous year. You can read MRA’s full statement here.
Immunotherapy Briefing on Capitol Hill
MRA President and CEO Wendy Selig spoke on behalf of MRA at a standing-room only briefing on Capitol Hill about the revolutionary progress for cancer coming from the area of immunotherapy research. She was joined on the panel for this session, sponsored by BIO and the National Coalition for Cancer Research, by Dr. Michael Atkins (MRA-funded clinician and researcher at Georgetown-Lombardi Cancer Center), Alise Reicin of Merck, Ed Cha of Genentech, and Monica Smith of the Bladder Cancer Action Network.
Happy summer! Here’s hoping you are enjoying the longer days and able to spend a bit more time with friends and families doing the things you love. As you take advantage of the warmer weather don’t forget to keep sun safety and our shared goal of defeating melanoma in mind.
At MRA, we are taking advantage of the summer season to accelerate progress for melanoma prevention, detection and treatment. Building on the historic slate of grants we announced last month, we are preparing for our next grant cycle, which will launch in August with a Request for Proposals (RFP). MRA also just released its 2014 Scientific Retreat Report, detailing the extraordinary work of many of our funded investigators and highlighting the collaborative relationships forged at this unique event. You can read the 2014 Scientific Retreat Report here.
It was gratifying to be ranked #1 among 30 premier research grant-making disease foundations by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN). MRA is focused on funding as much cutting-edge melanoma research as possible. Thanks to the generous ongoing support of our founders, MRA allocates 100 percent of all donor dollars directly to research. Check out the full story here.
We are thrilled to be partnering with American Idol® Live! Tour, which began its 40-city run in late June, with $1 from each ticket sold benefitting melanoma research funded by MRA. Also this month, J.Crew is joining with us to promote a message of melanoma awareness and sun safety while raising funds to support research.
MRA’s Chief Science Officer traveled to San Diego, Calif., to attend the 2014 BIO International Conference where the discussion she led about immunotherapies for cancer drew a standing-room only crowd.
Each week brings hopeful news regarding the expanding arsenal of treatment options for melanoma patients. Just this week the first anti-PD1 therapy approval was announced for melanoma patients in Japan. We are excited about these developments, as we see MRA-funded scientists continuing to lead the field in making a real difference in people’s lives. Thank you for your continuing support for our work!
Wendy K.D. Selig
President and CEO
MRA Releases Annual Scientific Retreat Report
MRA released its Annual Scientific Retreat Report, “Converging on a Cure,” covering the scientific findings presented at its Sixth Annual Scientific Retreat held in Washington, DC on February 26-28, 2014. This year’s retreat was MRA’s largest and most diverse meeting yet with approximately 300 thought leaders in attendance. Participants included academic scientists from nine countries and 77 institutions, almost 60 industry allies, more than 50 representatives of non-profit organizations, and 15 senior-level government colleagues. The report offers a glimpse into the exciting developments in the field of melanoma and the collaborative relationships forged within and across sectors thanks to MRA’s unique research program. By promoting collaboration in the field and providing critical investments in innovative translational research, MRA is leading the field in converging on a cure. You can read the full report here.
MRA CSO Moderates Packed Panel at BIO Conference
On Wednesday June 25, MRA’s Chief Science Officer Louise M. Perkins moderated an exciting panel at the 2014 BIO International Convention in San Diego, “Shoot for the Immune: Taking Aim at Cancer with the Next Generation of Immunotherapies.” The panel of speakers included MRA’s Grant Review Committee Chair Kim Margolin, Aya Jakobovits from OrbiMed, and Eric Rubin from Merck Research Laboratories. While at BIO, Perkins met with more than 20 industry leaders to discuss developing new cancer treatments, especially in melanoma. Nearly 15,000 researchers, regulators and thought-leaders attended the convention which featured keynote addresses from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sir Richard Branson.
Nature Article Features MRA Grant Review Committee Member
The work of an MRA Grant Review Committee Member, Dr. Richard Marais, Director of the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, was published in Nature and widely broadcast by media outlets such as the BBC. The study’s findings concluded that sunscreen alone was not enough protection to prevent melanoma and that multiple methods of protection are necessary to reduce your risk of this deadly disease.
EVENTS AND ALLIANCES
American Idol®Live! Tour Partners With MRA
MRA is delighted to partner once again with the American Idol® Live! Tour. For every ticket purchased for the Tour, American Idol® Live! will donate $1 to MRA to fund our research program and aid efforts to cure melanoma. The Tour kicked off June 24 in Binghamton, NY and will hit 40 different cities across the U.S. throughout the summer. Tickets can be purchased at www.AmericanIdol.com/tour.
J.Crew Partners with MRA in SmartSun Campaign
For the month of July, J.Crew has partnered with MRA to raise awareness and funds to cure melanoma. J.Crew will be donating $1 to MRA for every picture shared on Instagram showing how you cover up and have fun in the sun. To participate, people just need to tag their pictures with #Jcrewsmartsun.
OUTREACH AND VISIBILITY
MRA Video: Leading the Way toward a Cure
MRA released the 4th in a series of videos that highlights its work in leading the way toward finding a cure for melanoma.
Please watch and share: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JD6_YehGLs
MRA Ranked #1 Grant-Giving Disease Foundation
MRA was ranked #1 of the top 30 grant-giving disease foundations according to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN). The list underscores the crucial role non-profit disease organizations serve in funding critical research to bridge the gap created by declining resources offered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over the past decade. Other top ranked grant-giving nonprofit organizations included The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the Cancer Research Fund of the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation.
New Ally Story and Survivor Story Added to MRA's Website
MRA is pleased to share a new story on our alliance with the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Sonja Plesset, the Whitehead Institute’s Vice President of Advancement, describes how MRA co-funded the promising melanoma research of Whitehead Member and MRA Young Investigator, Dr. Piyush Gupta. Read the rest of this story here.
Melissa Breitbart-Sohn shares her story on the MRA website this month. Melissa reflects on her experience receiving a diagnosis of metastatic melanoma as a young mother and how she vowed to dedicate herself to finding a cure for melanoma through the Live4Life Foundation. Read the rest of her story here.
MRA Honored by MGH Cancer Center
On June 10, MRA was honored to be chosen as one of the One Hundred by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center. CEO Wendy Selig spoke on behalf of MRA at the event, which is held annually to celebrate the 100 individuals and organizations who have dedicated themselves to making a difference in the fight against cancer.
Louise M. Perkins Featured in Patient #1 Blog
Louise M. Perkins, MRA’s Chief Science Officer, was featured in a Q&A on Philly’s Patient #1 blog. In this first installment of the “Tales from ASCO” series, T.J. Sharpe posed questions on the recent advances in melanoma treatment and how the scientific findings presented at the Annual Scientific Conference of Oncology (ASCO) will impact patients. T.J. Sharpe’s Patient #1 blog shares his fight against Stage 4 melanoma. You can read the Q&A here.
Wendy Selig Featured in FOX News Article
MRA has been leading the efforts of the Public Access to SunScreens (PASS) Coalition to draft and introduce a bill to fix the FDA’s sunscreen ingredient approval process. After the bill’s introduction and the growing concern for better sunscreens during Melanoma Awareness Month, MRA’s CEO and President was quoted in an article by FOX News on the need to streamline the FDA approval process in order to provide the public with access to better sunscreens. MRA’s comments on this issue have also been featured in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Congressional Quarterly (CQ) as well as in interviews with media outlets from Long Island a nd Los Angeles.
Under-18 Indoor Tanning Ban Enacted in Hawaii
Last week, Hawaii enacted legislation that prohibits minors under 18 years of age from using indoor tanning equipment. The bill was signed on July 3 by Governor Neil Abercrombie effective immediately. In total, ten states across the U.S. have now passed legislation banning indoor tanning bed use by minors. Similar bills are still under consideration in a handful of states, including North Carolina. MRA supports these bans and views them as an important first step in protecting youth from the known health dangers associated with UV exposure and indoor tanning.
MRA Hails Sunscreen Innovation Act Mark-Up by House Subcommittee
On June 19, MRA hailed the formal mark-up of H.R. 4250, the Sunscreen Innovation Act, by the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health. You can read MRA’s statement here. This move is an important first step toward enactment of legislation to alleviate the current 12 year backlog of sunscreen ingredients, and streamline the review process so the public can gain more timely access to the most effective and innovative sunscreen products. As a leading member of the PASS Coalition, MRA continues to support the passage of this bill and will keep you informed on further legislative developments.
May has drawn to a close and was a whirlwind of activity for MRA. During the month, we announced our 2014 Grant Awards, held a record-breaking Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma benefit in New York City, engaged with corporate and nonprofit allies to celebrate Melanoma Awareness Month, and attended the annual ASCO meeting. I would like to take a moment and recap these exciting developments!
MRA leadership has just returned from the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago. This year’s meeting again featured breakthroughs in melanoma treatment, as well as promising data on immunotherapies in different types of cancer. MRA’s excitement about new therapeutic approaches for treating metastatic melanoma continues to grow; you can read more on ASCO in the Science section of this newsletter.
We recently announced $8 million in new research awards for projects aiming to better treat, prevent, and detect melanoma, bringing our 2014 funding total to an unprecedented $11 million. The applicant pool for our 2014 awards was extremely strong, and with this latest round of awards, MRA’s portfolio now comprises 144 projects involving 204 principal investigators at 92 institutions in 14 countries.
The 2014 grants set new records for funding leveraged from other sources as well. In addition to the MRA commitments this year, further grant support came from industry, research institutions, corporate organizations, and individuals, bringing the cumulative amount of leveraged funding to nearly $60 million. The leveraged funding applied to melanoma projects came as a result of MRA grants, bringing MRA’s direct impact to the melanoma research field to more than $120 million. This round of grants also includes a collaboration with The V Foundation for Cancer Research as well as industry support for the Young Investigator program from both Bristol-Myers Squibb and GSK.
We also held our third annual Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma (LFFM) benefit in Rockefeller Center on May 20th. The event drew 900 attendees from leveraged finance and the surrounding industries and raised $1.4 million, surpassing last year’s totals for both attendees and funds raised. This event’s success would not be possible without the dedication of the event co-chairs as well as the numerous individuals, allies, and sponsors who continue to support the fight to treat and cure melanoma.
MRA has been working to raise melanoma awareness on multiple fronts all month, from social media to the new videos we have produced, and of course, through engaging our corporate and nonprofit allies in Melanoma Awareness Month messaging. We touched more than 7 million people through our Thunderclap campaign, participated in #DontFryDay, and also launched the first annual SunHat Saturday campaign.
Our diverse activities and initiatives would not be possible without your ongoing support. I wish you all a sun safe summer!
Wendy K.D. Selig
Wendy K.D. Selig
President and CEO
MRA Announces Record-Breaking 2014 Grant Awards
Earlier this month, MRA announced its latest slate of research awards, totaling $8 million in new grants. This round of awards makes 2014 a record-breaking year for MRA, bringing the organization’s total funding since January to more than $11 million and the organization’s cumulative total since inception to over $60 million. The awards go to 34 scientists at 19 leading academic institutions to accelerate research into novel treatments and better outcomes for melanoma patients. Included in the awards are three new Academic-Industry Partnership Awards, as well as several awards with an institutional co-funding component. MRA also collaborated with the Lung Cancer Research Foundation and LUNGevity on a joint award to support research into brain metastases. Read MRA’s press release on the awards here.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Announced Expanded Access Program for Nivolumab
Bristol-Myers Squibbrecently announced the creation of an expanded access program for nivolumab, the company’s investigational anti-PD1 immunotherapy. The program will allow more metastatic melanoma patients to receive the treatment, which has shown promising clinical results. The expanded access program is open to eligible patients with advanced melanoma who have been previously treated with ipilimumab and, if indicated, a BRAF inhibitor. MRA’s statement in support of the program can be read here.
Leadership Attends ASCO Meeting in Chicago
This week, MRA senior leadership attended the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago. The meeting draws more than 30,000 oncology professionals from a variety of specialties and features cutting-edge scientific presentations and comprehensive educational content. In addition to attending sessions to learn about developments in melanoma treatments and therapeutic approaches, MRA also conducted a series of meetings with industry partners, government officials, academic leaders and non-profit peers. The melanoma highlights from ASCO can be summarized as more good news and promise for ever better outcomes for patients with melanoma. Data on molecularly targeted agents from various companies was presented including combination data on GSK and Novartis agents. And in the field of immunotherapy, the news continued to be outstanding for single-agent anti-PD1/ PDL1 antibodies from Merck, AstraZeneca, and Roche, and was particularly impressive for the combination of the anti-CTLA4 and anti-PD1 antibodies from Bristol-Myers Squibb which were reported to lead to 88% of patients surviving for two years, albeit with a relatively small number of patients tested. New strategies such as the oncolytic virus T-VEC from Amgen and Incyte’s IDO inhibitor are also emerging and are encouraging. Read MRA’s statement on ASCO here.
EVENTS AND ALLIANCES
Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma Event Breaks Records
On May 20th, Wall Street’s Leveraged Finance community came together to help finance the fight to treat and cure melanoma. The third annual Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma (LFFM) event at Rockefeller Center raised a record-breaking $1.4 million to benefit MRA’s global research program. MRA Board Member Michael Milken spoke at the event, which drew 900 supporters to the Sea Grill and Summer Garden for an evening of networking and raising melanoma awareness. A special thank you goes to the event's co-chairs, Jeff Rowbottom of KKR and Brendan Dillon of UBS, as well as to the rest of the host committee. In support of the event, digital media company Privcap also created two new videos featuring MRA supporters that can be seen on Privcap’s LFFM landing page. MRA would also like to thank all of the event’s sponsors, donors, as well as Studio3 for planning this incredible evening.
May Allies Make Melanoma Awareness Month a Resounding Success
This year, MRA was joined by nearly 20 Melanoma Awareness Month Allies who helped MRA raise melanoma awareness by engaging with us on social media, sharing our new videos and survivor stories, and educating their consumers about melanoma and the importance of protection and early detection. Results for the month are still coming in, but we would like to thank all of our allies for helping us share our educational content and infographics more widely than in years past, as well as for their support of the Thunderclap and our other May initiatives.
OUTREACH AND VISIBILITY
MRA-L’Oréal Paris Thunderclap Raises Melanoma Awareness
The L’Oréal Paris “It’s THAT Worth IT” Thunderclap went live on the evening of May 20th and was a resounding success. Over 2,700 supporters jointly broadcast the same message of melanoma awareness and support for MRA through social media to a combined audience of over 7 million people. For each supporter who signed up for the Thunderclap, L'Oréal Paris will donate $1 to MRA’s research program. In addition to the funds raised through the Thunderclap, L’Oréal Paris will donate $1 for each Advanced Suncare product sold in the U.S.—up to $250,000 total in 2014.
MRA Welcomes Dr. Suzanne L. Topalian to Board
MRA is pleased to welcome distinguished physician-scientist Suzanne L. Topalian, M.D. to its Board of Directors. Dr. Topalian is the Director of the Melanoma Program in the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Topalian led MRA’s scientific program for six years from its inception in late 2007 through early 2013, serving as its first Grant Review Committee Chair, then its first Chief Science Officer, on a part-time basis. She is currently serving as Chair of MRA’s Scientific Advisory Panel. The full statement on her appointment can be read here.
Huffington Post Publishes MRA Op-Ed on Melanoma Prevention
As part of MRA’s Melanoma Awareness Month activities, the Huffington Post ran a piece on the need for a national melanoma prevention strategy authored by MRA’s CEO. The article highlights the dangers of melanoma and showcases the tactics other countries have used to combat the disease. Check out the full article here. Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also published a Huffington Post piece in support of #Don’tFryDay—read it here.
MRA Featured on the AOL Homepage
On May 20th, MRA was featured in the ‘Make a Difference’ module on AOL’s homepage. AOL’s homepage is visited by more than 7 million users per day and provides a valuable platform for MRA to raise melanoma awareness as well as gain exposure to a new audience. As a result of the program, more than 10,000 first-time visitors clicked through to MRA’s website. We are thankful to AOL for providing MRA with this unique visibility opportunity.
MRA Honored at Focus on Melanoma Conference
MRA was honored at Penn Medicine’s 11th Annual Focus on Melanoma Meeting in Philadelphia last month. Louise M. Perkins accepted the Distinguished Partners in Hope Advocacy Award on MRA’s behalf and delivered brief remarks at the patient education meeting. MRA received the award based on its work to increase awareness and funding while advancing research to find a cure for melanoma.
Arizona Diamondbacks Support Melanoma Research
As part of Melanoma Awareness Month, the Arizona Diamondbacks made a $25,000 charitable donation to melanoma research. On May 17th, Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall saluted the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the MRA-SU2C Melanoma Dream Team in a pre-game ceremony at Chase Field. The donation was accepted by Dr. Jeffrey Trent, President and Research Director of TGen and leader of the Melanoma Dream Team. MRA is thankful to the Diamondbacks for their support of melanoma research and their efforts to raise awareness of this disease.
FDA Reclassifies Tanning Devices
Last week, the FDA released regulations that require tanning beds and sunlamps to display stronger warning labels, including a recommendation that people under the age of 18 abstain from using the devices. The reclassification moves tanning beds and sunlamps from Class 1 (low risk) to Class 2 (moderate risk) devices. MRA was an active proponent of the reclassification, which is a welcome step in providing necessary warnings to protect everyone, especially young people, from the dangers of tanning beds. You can read MRA’s full statement on the issue here.
Under-18 Indoor Tanning Bans Enacted in Two Additional States
Also last week, both Minnesota and Louisiana enacted legislation that prohibits minors under 18 years of age from using indoor tanning equipment. In total, nine states across the U.S. have now passed legislation banning indoor tanning bed use by minors. Similar bills are still under consideration in a handful of states, including North Carolina. MRA supports these bans and views them as an important first step in protecting youth from the known health dangers associated with UV exposure and indoor tanning.
Wendy Selig Featured in Fox News Segment on Sunscreen Ingredients
A video interview between Fox News Medical Correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel and MRA’s CEO recently aired on the Fox News Morning Show Fox & Friends. The video was part of a longer segment that compared U.S. sunscreens to those available in other countries. Due to a backlog in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sunscreen ingredient review process, consumers in the U.S. do not have access to the same advanced sunscreen ingredients and formulations available in other countries. Watch the full segment here.
Happy Melanoma Monday! May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) is joined by nearly 20 corporate allies, as well as institutions and other nonprofits, in a concerted effort to raise awareness of the dangers of melanoma while raising funds for MRA’s cutting-edge research.
Over the past several weeks, we have launched a series of exciting collaborations with corporate and non-profit allies, hosted a panel on the transformative advances of cancer immunotherapies at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference, and announced a $1 million contribution to the SU2C and CRI Immunology Translational Research Dream Team.
We are also on the cusp of announcing our full slate of 2014 grant awards, as we welcome new researchers and institutions to the MRA family. A formal announcement of the grants will be released later this month. We expect big things from this year’s awardees and anticipate they will make a significant impact in the field, especially during such a dynamic period of progress in melanoma research.
We are excited to fight melanoma on all fronts this May — through research, prevention, and awareness activities. From Melanoma Monday to #DontFryDay (May 23) and beyond, I hope you will continue to lend your support to MRA. With all of our voices and resources combined, we are making a difference against this disease.
Wendy K.D. Selig
President and CEO
EVENTS AND ALLIANCES
Ready. Set. May.
MRA Celebrates Melanoma Awareness Month with a Full Slate of Activities
Our social media channels are primed and ready to spread the word about melanoma this month. Be sure to follow MRA on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to participate in our activities this month and to engage with our partners. You can also connect with our new mobile community by texting SKIN to 50555 to receive up to 4 messages a month from MRA.
Each day of the week in May, we’ll be taking a different angle on spreading awareness:
Speak Up Monday: We’re gathering user-generated content on Facebook and Twitter. Help us get people talking!
Melanoma Story Tuesday: We’ll be posting compelling melanoma survivor stories.
Giveaway Wednesday: Our corporate partners will be hosting giveaways on their social media channels where you can win sun safety swag!
MRA Thursday: We’ve been working on some exciting video narratives, and we’ll be releasing a new one each Thursday.
Fact Friday: Get ready for data download as we post facts, statistics and share our new Facebook infographics!
Cover All Saturday: We’ll be providing a weekly round-up in our blog of everything related to Melanoma Awareness Month.
We are also launching a program to raise awareness of the use of hats to prevent UV exposure—Sunhat Saturday. Please help us spread the word about the importance of hats on the Saturday, May 24th by using the tag #SunhatSat on social media. And don’t forget to join our “It’s THAT Worth It” Thunderclap campaign with L’Oréal Paris to lend your social reach to helping us raise melanoma awareness and fund research.
MRA Joins with Nearly 20 Melanoma Awareness Month Allies
MRA is pleased to team up with many diverse companies to spread melanoma awareness and to raise funds for MRA's research program. This May, we are joined by nearly 20 companies committed to making a difference against this disease. Check out their programs below and learn how you can support MRA!
|2014 American Idol® Live! Tour: For every ticket purchased for the Summer Tour, American Idol® Live! will donate $1 to MRA.|
American Idol & related indicia: ®/© 19 TV Ltd. and FremantleMedia North America, Inc. 2014. All Rights Reserved. www.americanidol.com
|AOL: As part of the AOL Impact program, AOL will be highlighting MRA as a worthy cause on its homepage one day during May.|
|Bergdorf Goodman: Bergdorf Goodman will be supporting MRA at Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma, an annual MRA benefit in New York City.|
|Brelli: Brelli contributes 5% of all online sales to MRA year-round, and this May they will also be donating 20% of the purchase price from the small Brelli in clear.|
|Cabana Life: Cabana Life is giving $5 to MRA for every online checkout purchase. Consumers can also make their own donation in addition to the Cabana Life’s contribution. Look out for a Melanoma Awareness Month giveaway on May 7 on Cabana Life’s Facebook page too.|
|Clare Hare Darien: Clare Hare Darien is donating to MRA 5% of the purchase price of all sun-protective shirts sold in stores and online.|
|COOLA: $5 from each sale of COOLA’s limited edition box featuring COOLA’s Sport SPF 50 Unscented Sunscreen Spray will go back to MRA. The boxes, sold in select stores throughout the US, feature MRA’s logo and skin cancer prevention tips.|
|Eric Javits: Eric Javits is contributing 30% of online sales from a range of fashionable UPF 50+ hats in 2014. Eric Javits is also supporting MRA at the Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma event in NYC and hosting a Facebook giveaway on May 21.|
|First Aid Beauty: During the month of May, First Aid Beauty will be donating $10 for each 5 in 1 face cream with SPF 30 sold through First Aid Beauty’s online store.|
|L'Oréal Paris: L'Oréal Paris will donate $1 for each supporter who signs up for the Thunderclap and $1 for each L’Oréal Paris Advanced Suncare product sold in the U.S. –up to $250,000– in 2014.|
|MDSolarSciences: MDSolarSciences will be contributing $10 from the retail sale of each participating “Perfect Protection Duo” bag sold through their online store during the month of May. MDSolarSciences is also hosting a giveaway on their Facebook page May 28!|
|Mott 50: On May 14, UPF clothing company Mott 50 will generate awareness and education through a hosted giveaway on their Facebook page.|
|Parasol: Throughout 2014, Parasol will donate $1 to MRA for every new “like” on their Facebook page.|
|SkinCeuticals: SkinCeuticals will be supporting MRA through sales of their dermatologist recommended skincare products.|
|Sports Authority: During the month of May, consumers can round up their in-store purchase total to the nearest dollar to support MRA. Sports Authority stores will also feature awareness collateral including educational brochures and signage educating customers on the dangers of melanoma.|
|Sun Protective Designer Clothing: Sun Protective Designer Clothing will be donating to MRA 20% of all product retail sales bought online through September, 2014.|
|Vineyard Vines: Vineyard Vines will be supporting MRA at Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma, an annual MRA benefit in New York City.|
Take the Ipreo-Debtdomain 2014 Skin Check Pledge to Support MRA
Regular skin checks can save lives by detecting melanoma and other skin cancers at their earliest stages when they are most likely to be cured. To encourage people to focus on melanoma prevention and early detection, Ipreo-Debtdomain is once again hosting a skin check pledge this May.For each person who takes the 2014 Skin Check Pledge, a group comprised of Ipreo, KKR, UBS and select Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma donors will donate $100 to MRA, up to $250,000 total. To take the pledge, all you have to do is promise that you have had a skin check within the past six months or that you will get one within the next six months. Take the pledge today!
OUTREACH AND VISIBILITY
MRA Welcomes New Board Member, Amanda Eilian
Businesswoman and technology entrepreneur Amanda Eilian has joined MRA’s Board of Directors. She is the Co-Founder and President of The Talk Market, Inc., a video creation technology company funded by Amazon that serves Fortune 500 companies and consumers. Read MRA’s full statement on Amanda’s engagement with MRA here.
MRA Founder Participates on Expert Suncare Panel Hosted by L’Oréal Paris
Earlier this week, MRA Co-Founder and Chair Debra Black spoke on an expert suncare panel hosted by L’Oréal Paris as part of their “It’s THAT Worth It” campaign. The panel featured an educational discussion between several people in the L’Oréal Paris family who have been touched by melanoma and skin cancer, including L’Oréal Paris spokesperson Diane Keaton, Dr. Gervaise Gerstner, L’Oréal Paris Consulting Dermatologist, and Dr. Todd Ridky, Principal Investigator at The Wistar Institute Melanoma Research Center. The discussion was moderated by L’Oréal Paris Communications Executive and melanoma survivor Danielle Macaluso.
Milken Institute Global Conference Panel Features MRA Board Members and Researchers
MRA was well-represented on the “Cancer Immunotherapy: The Silver Bullet Against Cancer?” panel at this week’s Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif. The panel discussed developments and challenges in cancer immunotherapies—an exciting new approach to fighting melanoma and other cancers. The panel was moderated by MRA Board Member Jonathan Simons and also featured MRA Board Member Elliott Sigal and MRA-funded investigators from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Johns Hopkins University. You can watch the panel in its entirety here.
MRA Joins SU2C and CRI with Support for Immunology Translational Research Dream Team
MRA has pledged $1 million to the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C)-Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Immunology Translational Research Dream Team in support of an extension of the project focusing on melanoma. The Immunology Dream Team, launched in 2012, is engaged in a three-year project focused on the complex relationship between cancer and the immune system, with the goal of enhancing immune-based therapies for cancer patients. MRA’s funding will support an extension of the team’s research into a melanoma-specific examination of the immune mechanisms underlying the response to therapy in patients treated with novel immunotherapies. The full statement on this award can be read on MRA’s website.
Spring is finally in the air, bringing warmer days and reminding us all to be vigilant about sun safety. This is also a very busy and exciting time for the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), with research and policy news as well as the launch of Melanoma Awareness Month in May. We have a series of major initiatives in the works that will help spur more progress for patients while driving enhanced public awareness and engagement with our mission.
|Dr. Suzanne Topalian, Chair of MRA's Scientific Advisory Panel, Speaking at the AACR Meeting|
MRA is finalizing its 2014 Grant Portfolio, which will include a record number of projects supported with an all-time annual high funding total. This year marked our seventh granting cycle and saw an extraordinary number of excellent and innovative proposals. Stay tuned for this special announcement from MRA in the coming weeks.
On the outreach front, MRA is thrilled to have joined L’Oréal Paris in announcing an exciting new public awareness campaign that is sure to make a splash during Melanoma Awareness Month. The “It’s THAT Worth It” campaign uses powerful messages from L’Oréal Paris spokespeople to raise awareness of the dangers of melanoma and to encourage women to protect their skin daily with sunscreen. The campaign is part of an ongoing collaboration between MRA and L’Oréal Paris that is funding a $750,000 Team Science Award. You can read more about the campaign’s unique “Thunderclap” social media component below.
MRA’s Science Team recently traveled to the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in San Diego, Calif., where more than 35 MRA-supported investigators were featured, and several researchers from the MRA family were honored. The news from the conference continues to point to more progress for melanoma patients through immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and novel combination approaches. Especially gratifying is the knowledge that this progress is also leading the way to better treatment options for people suffering from a variety of other diseases.
We are truly making great strides against melanoma, but your support is vital to helping us sustain and leverage these advances. All of us at MRA remain grateful for your ongoing support.
Wendy K.D. Selig
President and CEO
Melanoma Research Progress Featured at AACR Annual Meeting
MRA’s Science Team recently attended the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual meeting in San Diego, Calif. More than 35 MRA-supported researchers were featured at the meeting, which spanned four days and drew 18,000 of the world’s leading cancer researchers and others from the cancer research community. MRA Medical Advisory Panel member and grant recipient Dr. Jedd Wolchok was honored with the AACR-Rosenthal Foundation Memorial Award at the meeting’s opening ceremony. Dr. Wolchok is Chief of Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service and Associate Director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. James Allison of MD Anderson Cancer Center and Dr. Levi Garraway of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute were also honored at the meeting. MRA’s full statement on the meeting can be read here.
MRA Young Investigators Publish High-Impact Translational Research
Novel CTLA-4 immune pathway described, potential immunotherapy target identified
Immunotherapies have shown great promise in melanoma and other cancers as demonstrated by so-called immune checkpoint inhibitors such as the FDA-approved agent ipilimumab. Ipilimumab targets the CTLA-4 checkpoint, which act as “brakes” on the immune system, thereby engaging it to attack the cancer. However, the immune system is highly complex and several mechanisms reduce the effectiveness of ipilimumab and other immunotherapies. One of these is the activity of regulatory T cells (Tregs), which are involved in shutting down the immune response of cells that help to kill the tumor. Tregs also express CTLA-4, but how it operates in Tregs was largely unknown. A new study led by MRA Young Investigator Kok-Fai Kong of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology publi shed in Nature Immunology described the signaling pathway involving CTLA-4 in Tregs and, as a result, identified a novel drug target. Kong demonstrated that CTLA-4 interacts with a molecule called PKC-eta and that this interaction was critical for the function of Tregs. In a melanoma mouse model, Kong showed that Tregs without PKC-eta resulted in reduced tumor growth. These findings suggest that anti-tumor responses could be boosted when this pathway is interrupted and establish the foundation for exploring combinatorial approaches targeting PKC-eta with ipilimumab and other therapies.
Drugs show promise in blocking melanoma metastasis
Melanoma is most curable if detected early before it spreads, or metastasizes, throughout the body. Understanding how cells disseminate from a primary tumor to distant organs is critical to developing interventions that block metastasis and prevent relapse. Interferon-alpha is the only FDA-approved melanoma adjuvant therapy, and this remains a high unmet need for melanoma patients. A recent study published in Cell by MRA Young Investigator Sohail Tavazoie of Rockefeller University suggests a new therapeutic means to slow or prevent melanoma metastasis. This study points to a protein called the liver-X nuclear receptor (LXR-beta, a nuclear hormone receptor) as a therapeutic target in melanoma and showed that drugs targeting it suppressed tumor growth and metastasis in preclinical studies. Th ey also assessed the mechanistic basis for LXR-beta targeting. In addition, they observed increased anti-cancer effects when combined with other melanoma drugs including B-Raf inhibition and anti-CTLA-4 therapy. This study supports additional investigation into this therapeutic approach in melanoma.
EVENTS AND ALLIANCES
MRA and L’Oréal Paris Launch Thunderclap Campaign to Raise Melanoma Awareness
MRA and L’Oréal Paris recently announced the launch of a unique social media campaign as part of an ongoing collaboration which includes melanoma awareness initiatives as well as an MRA Team Science Award. Social media users can join the “It’s THAT Worth It” Thunderclap Campaign, which will send a synchronized message of melanoma awareness out through every participant’s Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts on May 20th. This message will help raise awareness and make a larger impact across social media than any one person or company could hope to do alone. As part of the campaign, L'Oréal Paris will make a donation to MRA of $1 for each supporter who signs up for the Thunderclap and $1 for each L’Oréal Paris Advanced Suncare product sold in the U.S. – up to $250,000 in 2014. We encourage you to join the Thunderclap and lend your social reach to defeating melanoma! Click here to sign up today.
Sports Authority Launches Consumer-Facing Campaign to Support MRA
For the fourth consecutive year, Sports Authority is launching an in-store donation and consumer awareness program to raise funds for MRA’s research program and to help educate customers on ways to reduce their risk of melanoma. During May, consumers across the nation will be asked by cashiers if they would like to round their purchase total up to the nearest dollar to support MRA. Sports Authority stores will also feature awareness collateral including educational brochures and signage to educate customers on the dangers of melanoma and offer sun protection tips.
American Idol® Live! Tour 2014 Partners with MRA
MRA is partnering with the American Idol® Live! Tour 2014 this summer to generate melanoma and skin cancer awareness and financial support for MRA’s research program. For every ticket purchased for the Tour, American Idol® Live! will donate $1 to MRA. The Tour kicks off June 24 in Binghamton, NY and will hit 40 different cities across the U.S. throughout the summer. Tickets go on sale beginning May 9th at www.AmericanIdol.com/tour.
American Idol & related indicia: ®/© 19 TV Ltd. and FremantleMedia North America, Inc. 2014. All Rights Reserved. www.americanidol.com
MRA Gears Up for Melanoma Awareness Month
With Melanoma Awareness Month fast approaching, MRA is working to make an increased impact during the month. We hope to engage our many corporate partners to help spread melanoma awareness and raise funds for our critical melanoma research programs. In preparation for all of our May activities and messaging, we encourage everyone to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Don’t miss out on partner-sponsored giveaways, new MRA videos, and the chance to help fight melanoma!
OUTREACH AND VISIBILITY
MRA Featured in Washington Post Article on New Sunscreen Bill
MRA has been leading the efforts of the Public Access to SunScreens (PASS) Coalition to draft and introduce a bill to fix the FDA’s sunscreen ingredient approval process. After the legislation was introduced last month, a quote from MRA’s CEO and President appeared in an article that ran on the front page of the Washington Post. MRA’s comments on this issue have also been featured in Congressional Quarterly (CQ) as well as in interviews with media outlets from Long Island and Los Angeles.
New Survivor Story Added to MRA Website
Patient #1 melanoma blogger and advocate T.J. Sharpe shares his story on the MRA website this month. T.J. reflects on his experience receiving a diagnosis of stage IV melanoma and subsequently participating in clinical trials. Two years later, he is proving his oncologist wrong and says that with all the recent advances in research, now might be the “best” time to get melanoma. Read the rest of his story here.
MRA Participates on Panel at PhRMA Annual Meeting
MRA’s President and CEO recently participated in the annual meeting of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Wendy Selig spoke on a panel titled “The Promise of Science and the Pipeline: It Takes An Ecosystem,” where she discussed MRA’s unique role in accelerating better options for patients and the organization’s collaborations with industry. The panel included speakers from industry, finance, like-minded nonprofits, as well as government agencies. She also delivered a brief video interview on MRA’s participation in the meeting that can be watched here.
Chief Science Officer Represents MRA at Industry Meetings
Dr. Louise M. Perkins presented MRA’s approach to partnerships with academia, industry, and FDA at the 2nd Annual Sachs Cancer Bio Partnering & Investment Forum in New York City last month. She also attended the members meeting of the Health Research Alliance, a group that fosters collaboration among not-for-profit, non-governmental funders to support the continuum of health research and training.
MRA Supporter Speaks at American Cancer Society Immunotherapy Briefing on Capitol Hill
Melanoma and MRA were featured at a recent Capitol Hill briefing on the promise of immunotherapy for cancer and the importance of sustained federal funding for cancer research sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Melanoma patient and MRA supporter Rusty Cline spoke about his battle with melanoma and urged lawmakers to ensure a robust level of federal funding for cancer research.
Congress Considers The Sunscreen Innovation Act
MRA and the Public Access to SunScreen (PASS) Coalition have been advocating for an enhanced sunscreen ingredient approval process to expedite safety and efficacy review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of innovative products. A new sunscreen ingredient has not been approved in the U.S. since 1999, despite the fact that consumers in other countries have access to new formulations and ingredients not available in the U.S. Last month, the Sunscreen Innovation Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill was introduced in Congress. As part of the bill’s review, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on the bill, where Wendy Selig testified on behalf of the PASS Coalition. Her written testimony is available here and a video of the hearing can be seen here. MRA will continue to advocate for the bill as it moves through the legislative process and will be sure to keep you updated on its progress.
|MRA leadership and supporters with panelists from MRA’s Scientific Retreat luncheon|
Last week, MRA welcomed more than 300 leaders from academia, industry, nonprofits, and government to Washington, DC, for two days of intensive meetings on all things melanoma at our 6th Annual Scientific Retreat. As MRA builds on the momentum from this highly productive gathering, we are eager to share some highlights with you.
This year’s meeting set several important records for MRA, including the number, caliber, and breadth of attendees from across the continuum of the melanoma community. We were joined by an international cadre representing 77 institutions, 29 companies, more than a dozen collaborating foundations and many engaged patients. Retreat attendees heard cutting-edge results from the world’s leading melanoma researchers, as well as testimonials from melanoma patients directly impacted by this work. MRA also convened a meeting of like-minded melanoma foundations to foster collaborations across the nonprofit space, hosted a solutions-oriented session with industry and FDA to discuss new models for advancing earlier stage therapies, and presented a lunchtime discussion panel featuring MRA Board Members Michael Milken and Senator Connie Mack, and journalist and author Cokie Roberts.
The meeting was electric with optimism and potential for life-saving progress. As scientists presented their research findings, explored collaborations across disciplines and sectors, and engaged in discussions about improving patient outcomes, it was apparent that we are turning the corner on melanoma. We look forward to another exciting year of big news and expanded options for melanoma patients.
Our Retreat, and indeed our research mission, would not be possible without the support of our founders, allies, and donors. At such a critical juncture in the history of melanoma research, your support of MRA means more than ever. Thank you for your continued investment in our organization.
Wendy K.D. Selig
President and CEO
MRA Celebrates Its 6th Annual Scientific Retreat
Last week, MRA welcomed more than 300 leaders from academia, industry, nonprofits, and government to Washington, DC, for our 6th Annual Scientific Retreat. The program featured cutting-edge research results from MRA-funded programs as well as presentations on other topics of interest. An overarching theme of the meeting was the development of combination therapies for metastatic melanoma, in particular the integration of immunotherapies and kinase inhibitors. Research is indicating that drug combinations will be required for long-term control and cure of most patients. The identification of biomarkers is a key component to the rational development and testing of combinations of therapies, and many speakers discussed their research in this area as well. Another key feature of this year’s meeting was its multi-disciplinary nature as scientists with expertise in a variety of clinical fields (oncology, dermatology, surgery) and scientific disciplines (molecular biology, cell biology, immunology, chemistry, systems biology, informatics, and others) gathered with a common mission – eliminating melanoma as a cause of death and suffering. MRA will produce a more in-depth scientific report that will be made available by early summer.
MRA and The Saban Family Foundation Award $2.25 Million for Team Science
Last month, MRA and the Saban Family Foundation, a charitable foundation focused on supporting medical, children’s and education programs in the U.S. and Israel, jointly awarded $2.25 million in grants to three teams of investigators based at institutions in Israel and the U.S.These Team Science Awards will support collaborative research to improve the treatment of melanoma. The awards, which were offered to interdisciplinary teams led by a Principal Investigator at an institution in Israel, represent the first regionally targeted funding opportunity for MRA. Read our full press release on the awards here.
MRA Article Published in AACR Journal
An article written by MRA’s Founder and MRA’s Scientific Program Director was published in the December issue of AACR’s Journal of Cancer Immunology Research. The article profiles MRA and discusses the power of patient advocacy in scientific research. You can access the full text through the News section of MRA’s website.
Journal of Clinical Oncology Study Shows Long-Term Survival Data for Anti-PD-1 Therapy
MRA-supported researchers published a paper this week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that describes the long-term effects of the anti-PD-1 therapy nivolumab in patients with melanoma. The study was led by MRA’s Scientific Advisory Panel Chair Dr. Suzanne Topalian and features several MRA-funded co-authors. This paper is the first report of overall survival outcomes and long-term safety for a drug blocking the PD-1 pathway and suggests the potential for developing combination therapies based on anti-PD-1 agents. You can read the paper’s abstract here (a subscription is required to read the study in its entirety).
EVENTS AND ALLIANCES
Humble Bundle, Electronic Arts to Raise Funds for MRA from March 6th-13th
MRA is one of two designated charities during Humble Bundle’s week-long philanthropic venture that begins today. Humble Bundle sells bundles of digital content and games that are distributed online at a price established by the purchaser. Bundle sales are usually split among the content creators, the Humble Bundle platform, and select charities, but from March 6th -13th, Humble Bundle and PopCapTM Games, developer of popular games like BejeweledTM and Plants vs. ZombiesTM, will launch a charitable program in which they refuse any profits. Instead the proceeds will be divided between MRA and the V Foundation, another cancer research charity. Please visit the promotion site and help spread the word about this unique charitable collaboration on social media!
Eric Javits Expands Alliance with MRA
Eric Javits, a headwear and accessories line, has launched a second year-long cause marketing campaign to benefit MRA. The company will donate 30% of the purchase price from various UPF hats to MRA through February of 2015. See some of those selected hats here.
OUTREACH AND VISIBILITY
MRA Presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference
MRA’s Chief Science Officer delivered a company presentation at the BIO CEO and Investor Conference earlier this month at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. MRA was one of only a handful of patient organizations invited to present at this prestigious event, which is the largest investor conference focused on biotechnology companies.
New Survivor Story: Amanda Greene
This month, melanoma survivor Amanda Greene shares the story of her battle with the disease. As a busy 24-year-old in the media industry, Amanda took the time to listen to a nagging feeling that something just wasn’t right with a mole on her chest. You can check out Amanda’s full story on the MRA website.
Melanoma Focus Features Guest Blog Post by Jamie Troil Goldfarb
MRA’s Melanoma Focus blog recently ran a guest post from stage IV melanoma survivor and melanoma blogger Jamie Troil Goldfarb. In the post, Jamie discusses the psychological move from patient to survivor to victor with emotion and honesty. The post garnered the most views of any MRA blog post to-date, and can be read here.
Rockefeller University Event Features MRA Founder and MRA Young Investigator
|MRA’s Founder and an MRA Young Investigator spoke at The Rockefeller University on Feb 19th|
Last month, MRA Founder and Chair Debra Black and MRA Young Investigator Sohail Tavazoie participated in an event at The Rockefeller University titled “Sun Exposure, Genetics, and Melanoma: A Worldwide Health Challenge.” At the event, Dr. Tavazoie delivered a presentation on his melanoma research, and offered possible ways to combat melanoma metastasis moving forward. A panel discussion on melanoma awareness and prevention followed, with panelists, including Debra Black, also addressing the impact of philanthropy on melanoma research. You can watch a video of the event here.
Wendy Selig Elected President of NCCR
The National Coalition for Cancer Research (NCCR) has elected MRA President & CEO Wendy Selig president of its board of directors. The NCCR is a coalition comprised of 23 national cancer organizations. Its membership includes more than 85,000 cancer researchers, nurses and physicians, more than 90 cancer centers and specialized research institutions, and more than 2 million cancer patients, survivors and their families. MRA’s full statement on the election can be read here.
Advances in Immunotherapy Take Center Stage
Cancer immunotherapy has received significant press coverage lately, with articles devoted to the potential of this therapeutic approach appearing in the New York Times and The Economist. Cancer immunotherapy was also named the 2013 Breakthrough of the Year by Science magazine. This new approach to fighting cancer works to harness the power of the body’s own immune system—and to turn that power against invading cancer cells.
An article published today in the Washington Post titled, “New therapies raise hope for a breakthrough in tackling cancer” explains why researchers and clinicians are so optimistic about cancer immunotherapies—including checkpoint inhibitors like the new anti-PD-1 treatments currently in clinical development. The article shares the story of a 66-year-old Maryland man diagnosed with stage IV metastatic melanoma who received an experimental checkpoint blockade treatment as part of a clinical trial and saw his tumors begin to recede within two weeks.
MRA-funded investigators including Scientific Advisory Board Chair Dr. Suzanne Topalian are quoted throughout the article. MRA awardee Dr. Drew Pardoll predicts that within five years, “Half of the 600,000 Americans who receive diagnoses of advanced cancer each year will receive checkpoint inhibitors or other immune-related therapies.” Dr. James Allison, MRA grantee, is featured in an accompanying article for his groundbreaking work identifying a mechanism of checkpoint blockade, work that began as a result of federal funding decades ago.
As MRA gets ready to convene its 6th Annual Scientific Retreat next week, the momentum and progress in melanoma are undeniable. At our Retreat, our funded researchers and melanoma experts from around the globe will meet to discuss the latest developments in the field, including progress in immunotherapy, combinations, and other novel approaches.
We will provide a more comprehensive Retreat summary in next month’s newsletter, but I just wanted to thank you for your ongoing support of MRA and point you toward this latest article. Exciting developments are happening in the melanoma arena nearly every day, and MRA will work tirelessly to translate these breakthroughs into expanded treatment options for all melanoma patients.
Wendy K.D. Selig
President and CEO
Happy New Year from all of us at the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA)! We hope you and your families enjoyed a wonderful holiday season. With the start of 2014, MRA has been busy planning for upcoming events, including our 6th Annual Scientific Retreat in February, reviewing a record number of grant submissions for our Awards program, and enhancing our collaborations in advance of this year’s Melanoma Awareness Month campaign.
The melanoma community received exciting news this month when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the approval of the first combination treatment for melanoma. The agency approved the combination of two genetically-targeted drugs from GlaxoSmithKline, dabrafenib (Tafinlar®) and trametinib (Mekinist®), for patients with metastatic or unresectable melanoma whose tumors possess either the BRAF V600E or V600K genetic mutations.
This approval launches 2014 as another banner year for progress against melanoma and shows how industry and regulators are responding to the urgency of the melanoma patient community. You can read MRA’s full statement on the approval and its significance for patients here.
In other exciting news, Merck announced that it has initiated a rolling submission for its anti-PD1 antibody MK-3475 in patients with metastatic melanoma. Merck expects to complete the application with the U.S. FDA in the first half of this year. The promising treatment has already received the FDA’s Breakthrough Designation.
Last week, MRA leadership traveled to San Francisco to attend the 32nd Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. The meeting is the preeminent healthcare conference of the year and brings together all sectors of the biotech, pharma and device industries. MRA brings the voice of the patient to this prestigious event while networking and scouting potential collaborations to accelerate progress in research.
We hope that you are sticking to your New Year’s resolutions, and that you added taking steps to reduce risk for melanoma to your 2014 list. Our resolution is to work every day to help move the field closer to cures for all melanoma patients. With your wonderful encouragement and continued support, we look forward to a year full of scientific accomplishments and more big news for patients.
Wendy K.D. Selig
President and CEO
James Allison Wins Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences
Dr. James Allison
MRA-funded investigator and Scientific Advisory Panel Member James Allison of MD Anderson Cancer Center recently received the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his innovative cancer immunology research. This award was established by a host of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to recognize excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life. Allison has pioneered research in immunotherapy, whose clinical utility was established by the approval of ipilimumab in 2011. This treatment approach has produced promising data in patients with advanced melanoma and other cancers as well. You can read more about his award here.
MRA Mourns the Passing of Dr. Donald Morton, MD, FACS
Dr. Donald Morton
MRA is deeply saddened at the passing of Dr. Donald Morton, a leading surgical oncologist and pioneering melanoma researcher, as well as a melanoma survivor himself. Dr. Morton helped establish the John Wayne Cancer Institute, where he worked as Chief of the Melanoma Program and Co-Director of the Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program. Dr. Morton was actively involved with MRA from the launch of the organization in 2007 and he was a valued member of MRA’s Scientific Advisory Panel and a Team Science Award recipient. You can read MRA’s full statement mourning the loss of Dr. Morton here.
Science Names Immunotherapy the 2013 Breakthrough of the Year
The journal Science recognized immunotherapy as the 2013 Breakthrough of the Year in a December article that also highlighted melanoma among the case studies showing progress in this field. The author, Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, stated, “Oncologists, a grounded-in-reality bunch, say a corner has been turned and we won't be going back.” The piece notes the contributions made by a number of MRA investigators to this exciting field.
OUTREACH & VISIBILITY
Debra Black Profiled by Lifestyles Magazine
The winter issue of Lifestyles magazine features an in-depth profile of MRA Founder and Chair Debra Black. The piece discusses Debra’s battle with melanoma and her decision to found the Melanoma Research Alliance to make progress against the disease. The profile also highlights MRA’s impact on the field and can be read in full here.
MRA to Deliver Presentation at BIO CEO & Investor Conference
MRA has been selected to deliver a company presentation at the upcoming BIO CEO & Investor Conference at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Louise M. Perkins, PhD, will deliver MRA’s presentation to an audience of biopharma investors and CEOs in early February.
Safe-Sun Content from MRA Featured in USA Today Insert
MRA provided safe sun content for Mediaplanet’s winter health insert that ran in the December 20th weekend issue of the USA Today in several Mid-Atlantic markets. MRA educated readers on the increased UV exposure they receive while skiing in high altitudes and encouraged readers to monitor their skin for changes even during the winter months.
MRA Receives GuideStar Gold Status
MRA is proud to announce that it has been elevated to Gold Status in the GuideStar Exchange, a program that encourages nonprofit transparency and allows organizations to supplement the public information that is available from the IRS. Gold Status is the program’s highest level and is awarded to organizations that demonstrate a commitment to transparency and accountability. You can review MRA’s full GuideStar profile here.
Appropriations Bill Includes Funding for Melanoma Research
Last week, lawmakers unveiled an omnibus appropriations bill that would provide government funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014. The bill contains several items that will impact medical research and the fight against melanoma, including important increases in funding to restore some of recent years’ sequestration cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as the FDA. Included in the Defense section of the bill is $25 million in funding for the Department of Defense’s Peer-Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP). Researchers studying melanoma and other skin cancers, as well as 11 other types of cancer are eligible to compete for this funding. This bill marks significant progress in making more resources available for these priorities, specifically labeling melanoma as an important research priority for the Department of Defense. MRA senior leadership worked with our colleagues at the Melanoma Research Foundation to advance this initiative through high-level meetings on Capitol Hill and will continue to advocate to increase funding for this important program over the coming year. View MRA’s full statement on this bill here.
EVENTS AND ALLIANCES
MRA Plans for Melanoma Awareness Month in May
MRA’s plans for Melanoma Awareness Month in May are already underway. Each year, MRA launches collaborations with corporate allies to generate revenue and awareness among our combined stakeholders about the risks of melanoma and ways to protect their skin. Companies interested in partnering with MRA can contact Development Manager Jennifer Engel at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. This video explains how you can sell goods to raise funds for MRA, or you can donate directly via PayPal. Check out our Giving Page here to get started!
MELANOMA RESEARCH ALLIANCE FOUNDATION (Melanoma Research Alliance; MRA) is a GuideStar Exchange Gold Participant Want to learn more about the GuideStar Exchange?
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