|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: email@example.com.
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?
Click here »