Identifying Melanoma as a Single Cell

A recent study published in the journal Science could provide important clues for melanoma diagnosis.  Led by Leonard Zon, M.D., of Boston Children’s Hospital, the study looked at cancer in zebrafish from the very beginning – when it starts as just a single cell.

Funded in part by MRA, the study is the first to see melanoma – or any other cancer – begin this early. The researchers found that the cancer developed from an interesting process: the cells reprogrammed back to an embryonic state.

“The process was surprising to us,” noted Dr. Zon. “The melanoma essentially reprogrammed melanocytes to a stem cell, similar to an embryo’s neural crest.”

While the study looked at melanoma in zebrafish, Dr. Zon said human melanomas work similarly. Moles contain melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells. Most moles have a common genetic alteration in a gene called BRAF, but very few moles turn deadly. Understanding the early process of how and why cancers develop could help target treatments, or perhaps reveal prevention strategies.

Dr. Zon’s team used fish that had the BRAF mutation. They created a way to make the fish cells light up in bright green if the embryonic gene called crestin was turned on. The fish that lit up with the bright green signal were the same fish that developed melanomas.

“There are important implications of this work for cancer diagnosis with a newly found tumor, and potential opportunities to stop cancer before it ever begins,” explained Dr. Zon.

The new published research builds off of earlier work by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Richard White, MD, PhD, recipient of the Maria and Bill Bell – MRA Young Investigator Award, who observed that the melanomas in zebrafish were derived from crestin-expressing cells. Dr. White is a co-author in this new paper.

Dr. Zon told the Harvard Gazette that these findings could not only lead to genetic tests for suspicious moles to see if the embryonic cells have been activated, but also help researchers develop treatments that could prevent a mole from becoming cancerous.

You can read more about Dr. Zon’s research in the New York Times.

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Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma Raises $1.6 Million for Melanoma Research

By Jennifer Engel
Development Manager, Foundations and Campaigns

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On May 19, the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) took over Rockefeller Center for its Fourth Annual Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma (LFFM) cocktail event.  As a customary kick-off to summer, industry executives gathered to raise funds for melanoma research and learn about the importance of early detection and sun safety.

The 2015 LFFM event raised a record $1.6 million for MRA’s research programs, bringing the total amount generated since the event’s inception to more than $5 million. Specifically, the funds raised from the 2015 LFFM event will provide support for four new MRA research awards in the areas of targeted and immunotherapy treatments.  These projects address critical research questions to advance the development of new therapies for melanoma patients and inform our understanding of cancer more broadly.

With men twice as likely to die from melanoma, the leveraged finance industry is a great way to reach men and remind them to protect themselves and their loved ones from the sun’s harmful rays. Guests perused sun-safety merchandise from MRA’s corporate partners to raise additional dollars and also signed up for the annual skin check pledge.

We are so thankful to all the incredible LFFM sponsors and supporters. To learn more about the LFFM event or request to be added to the 2016 invitation list, please email JEngel@curemelanoma.org.

About The Author

Jennifer Engel is the Development Manager, Foundations and Campaigns for the Melanoma Research Alliance.

Turning the Tide Against Cancer Through Sustained Medical Innovation

Guest Blog Contributors
Edward Abrahams, Ph.D., President, Personalized Medicine Coalition
Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), Chief Executive Officer, American Association for Cancer Research
Marcia A. Kean, M.B.A., Chairman, Feinstein Kean Healthcare

Turning the Tide Banner

We live in extraordinary times. Over the past decade, advances in science and medicine have transformed our approach to fighting cancer. In many cases, a cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence, but rather a chronic condition managed through new therapies. Personalized medicines have moved us away from one-size-fits-all, trial-and-error treatment options to more patient-centered cancer research and care. As we continue to learn more about the molecular underpinnings leading to the more than 200 diseases that comprise cancer, we will be able to more effectively prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat these diseases.

But we also live in a time of great economic pressure, where healthcare costs have reached unsustainable levels and our current cost-constrained environment threatens future innovation and our ability to deliver patient-centered cancer care. In 2011, the Personalized Medicine Coalition, American Association for Cancer Research, and Feinstein Kean Healthcare came together to address the challenge of sustaining progress against cancer while facing the economic imperative to reduce healthcare spending. Since the beginnings of the Turning the Tide Against Cancer initiative, we have seen a groundswell of support from across the cancer community for a shift to a more patient-centric, high-value system of cancer research and care. To do so, we must put the right policies in place that will incentivize scientific discovery and medical progress, while addressing rising healthcare costs.

On October 9, we will convene the second Turning the Tide Against Cancer Through Sustained Medical Innovation national conference to hear from the cancer and health policy communities to further define and address these issues, and refine our recommendations to policymakers.

If we are to continue to realize the extraordinary promise of scientific discovery and personalized cancer medicine, we must advance policies that support a more efficient and effective healthcare system. We hope that this conference provides the platform for examining innovative approaches to conducting personalized, patient-centered cancer research; optimizing the processes through which new medical products are evaluated and approved; and implementing care delivery and payment models that deliver high-value, affordable cancer care to patients.

We invite you to join us for the conference on October 9 in Washington, D.C. or online via webcast and #T3Cancer, and to join us in ongoing collaboration so that together, we can advocate for the policy changes that will result in patient-centric, high-value cancer research and care.

Watch these two-minute videos to learn more about:

The Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) is proud to sponsor and support the Turning the Tide Against Cancer initiative.  As a contributor to the initiative’s expert working group, MRA’s president and CEO Wendy Selig joined fellow experts in oncology, patient advocacy, and health policy to identify and refine specific policy options that can move us toward a more patient-centric, high-value system of cancer research and care.  Through collaboration with all invested stakeholders, we are working to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and galvanize the field of cancer treatment to benefit all patients.

Melanoma News Round-Up, October 18

MRAcoffee

What’s been happening in the melanoma space this fall?  Catch up on the news with these timely stories!

Breaking Through Cancer’s Shield via the New York Times

Mayor Launching Crusade Against Tanning Salons via New York Post

Liverpool Fashion Week models banned from sunbeds via BBC News

Same Gene Mutations Tied to 12 Cancers via the Wall Street Journal

Bill passes in Ontario to ban minors from using tanning beds via CBC News

Engineer’s $3.5 million grant aims at improving survival of cancer patients via Washington University in St. Louis

After melanoma, people head back to the sun: study via Reuters

Melanoma News Round-Up, September 15

MRAcoffee

An implantable melanoma vaccine begins clinical trials, whales with sunburn, and other melanoma and skin-cancer related news from  the last few weeks.

Cancer vaccine begins Phase I clinical trials via Harvard News

Sleep Apnea May Predict Skin Cancer Risk: Could Sleepless Nights Be Harmful To Healthy Skin? via Medical Daily

Whales can get sunburned too via Smithsonian

Can airport security scanner technology help detect skin cancer? via CBS News

More cuts loom for US science via Nature

“Self-Eating” Cells May Help Prevent Melanoma Progression via Cancer Network

Loss inspires melanoma caregiver to help others via MD Anderson Cancer Center

Melanoma News Round-Up August 2, 2013

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Here’s the week in melanoma-related news:

Hospital Staff Hold a Wedding for a Late-Stage Melanoma Patient via The Border Mail

Scientists Seek to Rein In Diagnoses of Cancer via the New York Times

Tattoos can Hide Melanoma, Experts Say via WebMD

Meet the Woman Who Survived Five Melanomas via The Telegraph

New Therapy Improves Lifespan in Melanoma Patients with Brain Metastases via Science Daily