Collaboration is at the core of MRA’s organizational DNA. MRA knows it can’t do this work alone. Thus, it seeks out partners who believe in and have embraced our mission of ending suffering and death due to melanoma. MRA’s ability to fund wide-ranging research in melanoma is amplified by unique, multi-faceted collaborations and partnerships.

Our partners span all sectors to include corporations, academia, non-profits, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and patients and advocates. Here we spotlight a few of our partnerships from 2016-2017.

Key Collaboration Statistics

Corporate Partner Spotlight

BJ’s Wholesale Club, a retail warehouse club, distributed ads featuring MRA to its 6 million members to raise awareness about melanoma prevention. The promotion, carried out in each of its 225 stores during Melanoma Awareness Month, included a campaign to mobilize vendors selling through BJ’s to donate funds to support research. In total, during the first year of this partnership, BJ’s raised $800,000 that will directly support MRA-funded researchers and BJ’s wants to raise even more funding for research in 2018.

/ “As someone who has a family member that was diagnosed with melanoma, I know all too well the effect that skin cancer can have on a family,” says Bob Eddy, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at BJ’s. “I am elated that this partnership will shed light on the fact that people can impact their chances of experiencing this disease, just by thinking about their sun exposure.” /

– Bob Eddy, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at BJ’s

Research Partner Spotlight

The American Cancer Society (ACS), the largest voluntary health organization, and MRA have created a joint grant-making program designed to find ways to better predict, prevent, and/or minimize the side effects of checkpoint inhibitors, which are some of the most promising immunotherapy drugs. MRA and ACS have each committed $1 million for grant awards and the combined $2 million will be used to fund at least one team at $1 million and to support five pilot projects at $200,000 each. The first grants will be awarded in April 2018. The partnership brings together the best of both organizations—MRA’s deep focus on melanoma research and immunotherapy with ACS’s connection to the broader oncology field.

Community-based Melanoma Group Partner Spotlight

Melanoma Action Coalition comprises 29 non-profit organizations focused on increasing awareness about melanoma, providing education about sun safety, and raising money for melanoma research. Community partners help us mobilize awareness of melanoma to support prevention efforts, and partner with us in funding the best research possible.

The Tara Miller Melanoma Foundation, one MAC-affiliated organization, also directly collaborates with MRA. Founded by Tara Miller in 2014 with a mission to raise funds to support melanoma research of effective treatment methods and, ultimately a cure, the foundation is now led by the Millers to honor Tara’s legacy and continue her fight. Although Tara knew the money raised by her foundation would not fund research that would benefit her, Tara explained, “Hopefully we will see the money raised by this Foundation make a difference in someone else’s fight against this terrible disease.”


Since 2014, the Foundation has raised more than $2 million dollars and 100% of those funds have been used to fund research. To date, the Tara Miller Melanoma Foundation has collaborated with MRA to fund three Young Investigator Awards.

/ “MRA is focused on the human aspect. They created a community for patients and families and they NEVER forget a patient they’ve lost.” /

- Lauren Miller

Academic/Industry Partnerships

The Academic/Industry Partnership program is built on stakeholder collaboration. MRA and an industry partner, whose involvement is essential to the research project, co-fund a competitively awarded research grant given to an academic investigator in the melanoma field. In 2016-2017, MRA granted more than $890,000 to three Academic/Industry Partnership Awards that were supplemented by industry matches totaling more than $1.1 million in cash and in-kind support.

Academic/Industry Partnership Spotlight

Targeted therapy for metastatic melanoma: A phase 1 dose-expansion cohort; Paul Hergenrother, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign/Vanquish Oncology

Dr. Hergenrother and Vanquish Oncology are conducting a clinical trial with late-stage metastatic melanoma patients to evaluate PAC-1. This novel drug kills melanoma cells through an entirely different mechanism than other targeted therapies, and as such, it is hoped that it will avoid the associated resistance problems common to this treatment type. This research is founded on the results from a Phase 1 clinical trial of PAC-1 that showed a response in a patient with advanced-stage cancer.


Each year, MRA hosts a Scientific Retreat to promote collaboration and communication among key stakeholders in the melanoma community. This event is one example of MRA exemplifying the Alliance portion of our name. This event has become one of the most vital gatherings of stakeholders in the field of melanoma research. It serves as a vehicle for fostering collaboration by facilitating early sharing of data among researchers in a highly interactive forum, linking melanoma advocates, connecting academia and industry, and supporting young investigators.

The Ninth Annual Scientific Retreat was held February 13-15, 2017, in Washington, DC. Among the nearly 300 attendees were: academic investigators, pharmaceutical and biotech representatives, melanoma advocates from numerous non-profit organizations, donors, patients, family members of those who lost their lives to the disease, and government officials. All were gathered at this invitation-only, think tank-style conference to hear the latest research findings in melanoma prevention, diagnosis, and treatment and to discuss ways in which industry and academia can better work together to promote the most effective clinical trials and learn from patients and their families with firsthand experience fighting this difficult disease.

/ “The MRA Scientific Retreat is always a great opportunity to network and hear from cutting edge investigators and patient advocates.” /

– Via post-retreat evaluation

Several continuing education and networking sessions accompanied the Retreat’s core scientific sessions:

  • The Melanoma Advocates and Foundations Forum facilitated networking among patients, industry representatives, and individuals from non-profit organizations responding to melanoma and provided an overview of current research to help these individuals better understand the scientific sessions.

  • Industry Roundtable Breakfast convened academic researchers and representatives from government and industry to discuss how to better facilitate the collection and use of critical tissue specimens from patients participating in clinical studies.

  • MRA Young Investigator Breakfast featured editors from several top-tier journals who offered advice on how to best prepare their research findings for publication.

Past and present MRA Young Investigators gathered at the 2017 Scientific Retreat.