American Cancer Society and Melanoma Research Alliance Fund Five Innovative Approaches to Reduce Immunotherapy Side Effects
As the world marks Melanoma Awareness Month, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) selected the first group of scientists to receive newly established research grants to investigate how to reduce rare, but serious, side effects resulting from cancer treatments with checkpoint inhibitors, a type of immunotherapy.
Tackling Brain Metastases
Brain metastases (mets) are a frequent and often deadly problem in patients with advanced melanoma. Nearly 40% of patients with metastatic melanoma have brain mets at diagnosis, with an average survival of only 4 months, suggesting a crucial need for treatments that can rid the brain of these tumors1,2. But new cancer treatments are rarely tested in patients with active brain mets. This is largely due to concerns about whether these patients will have side effects unique to brain mets, and poorer outcomes that may negatively weigh against otherwise positive clinical benefits. Another potential concern is whether the drugs will even penetrate the brain, which has a fortress-like ability to keep substances from entering it.
Are Personalized Vaccines Part of a New Combination Approach to Treating Melanoma?
Bracing for cold weather and the threat of runny noses and sore throats, millions of Americans are vaccinated for the flu each year. By priming the immune system, the vaccine reduces the risk of catching the flu and, if not successful at preventing it altogether, reduces both the severity and the duration of symptoms. These are ‘one-size-fits-all’ vaccines that are useful for all people. But what if each and every person’s flu, like each person’s melanoma, was unique? You’d need a personalized vaccine that was made and customized for each individual. Dr. Patrick Ott, Clinical Director of the Melanoma Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and lead researcher on the BJ's Wholesale Club-MRA Team Science Award, is conducting pioneering research to harness the power of personalized vaccines to combat melanoma.
Melanoma: What You Need to Know
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Rates of melanoma are rising rapidly, especially in younger people. In fact, cases of melanoma have tripled in the last 30 years, at a time when cancer rates for other common cancers have declined.
Do you know the answer to these top ten questions people ask about melanoma?
Our Research Saves Lives: MRA Grants Over $100 Million in Ten Years
Through powerful research, the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) is quickly delivering results and saving lives. In ten years, the Melanoma Research Alliance has become the largest, non-profit funder of melanoma research worldwide. In fact, with Tuesday's announcement of 28 new grant awards – MRA has now funded $100 million in the areas of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment!
Immunotherapy & Chemotherapy – Two Different Approaches
We’ve all seen the movie where the heroic cancer patient bravely moves through treatment as she deals with nausea, hair loss, and other side effects. For many cancer patients this picture is true, however imprecise. Hollywood has conditioned us to equate cancer treatment with chemotherapy. Twenty years ago this narrative was more or less accurate, but in a world where immunotherapies and other new treatments are increasingly being used, this narrative isn’t keeping up with today’s reality. For some people with melanoma, this stuck-in-the-past narrative may even be deadly.
What’s Next in Melanoma Treatment?
Dr. Douglas Johnson, MRA Young Investigator awardee and Assistant Professor of Medicine and Melanoma Clinical Director at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, outlines three broad areas of current and future melanoma research.
Finding the Magic Formula
Modern immunotherapy, with melanoma as its poster child, is changing the way we treat cancer - for good. But, so far at least, it isn't helping everyone. Many scientists believe that there isn't a single silver bullet to unleash the awesome power of our immune systems - and instead - that the future of oncology is finding just the right combination of therapies that push and pull from different directions to multiply and enhance each other's effectiveness.
The Microbiome, is it the Deciding Factor for Immunotherapy Success?
It's been nearly seven years since the first FDA-approved checkpoint inhibitor for melanoma came on the market and doctors, researchers, and patients all keep asking: "who is most likely to benefit from immunotherapy? How can we make this work for more people?" Thankfully, the answer may be closer than we thought and the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and other bugs - which make up our microbiome - may have something to say about it.
Creating a New Generation of Melanoma Models
We all can remember the eruption that happened when our 1st grade science teacher combined vinegar and baking soda together to represent a volcano. In some ways, this is just like experiments that take place every day in the search for better treatments, and ultimately a cure, for melanoma. In both instances, the researcher uses models to represent systems and phenomena that would otherwise be difficult or unethical to touch, see, or manipulate. Models are powerful things and we use them every day to make things easier to understand. In science, modeling is an essential component of our scientific process.
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