By Wendy Selig, MRA President & CEO
It might have been easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of a star-studded Hollywood event this past week in LA as Stand Up To Cancer held its latest prime-time broadcast in support of cancer research. After all, some of us had the chance to enter the historic theater via a red-carpet lined with paparazzi. And during the show itself, every few minutes for the entire hour a different A-list celebrity appeared on the stage.
But there was something much more personal and powerful going on in that room where celebrities were coming together with cancer researchers and doctors, foundations, corporations, patients and their families. It was the sense of hope and promise that these cancer survivors brought to the event that made it most impactful. Their courage, resilience and resolve is what inspires me most. The evening really brought home just how important it is for all of us to work together in collaborations that will defeat cancer in all of its forms.
I was fortunate to be there on behalf of the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), saluting the life-saving work of our MRA-SU2C Melanoma Dream Team and the Melanoma component of the CRI-SU2C Immunology Dream Team. These brilliant scientists and physicians have dedicated their professional lives to understanding how melanoma works and designing ways to stop this deadly killer in its tracks.
It was an honor to meet one of the melanoma patients profiled during the broadcast – a lovely woman named Kathy whose doctor, Toni Ribas from UCLA, is an MRA-funded investigator and member of our Medical Advisory Panel. Despite having been extremely sick as a result of her cancer just months ago, Kathy is now back to living her life, thanks to the exciting progress that has been made in delivering new immunotherapy treatments. Kathy’s strong desire to be there for her children and new grandchild, brings home the promise and hope we all feel as a result of recent progress, including new therapies like the anti-PD-1 therapy approved just last week by the FDA.
But even with all of the good news coming in the melanoma field, we know that our work is far from finished. For every story like Kathy’s, there are still too many stories of people who are suffering from this beast. As I write this, we have just learned of the tragic loss of a young woman named Jackie to this terrible disease. She was only 22 and, though she fought with such grace and courage for more than two years, she passed away this week.
And that’s why MRA, working with our partners at Stand Up To Cancer and dozens of other allies across sectors, won’t rest until we’ve arrived at the day when no one suffers or dies from melanoma. That’s why we’ve just launched our next Request For Proposals soliciting high-impact projects from researchers around the world. We plan to fund at least $7 million in our next grant cycle, building upon the $60 million we’ve already invested. And that’s why we seek to engage more people in our mission through alliances and collaborations to fund more life-saving research to accelerate progress toward cures for melanoma.
About the Author
Wendy K.D. Selig is President and CEO of the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), a public charity focused on finding and funding the most promising translational melanoma research worldwide that will accelerate progress toward a cure. Ms. Selig drives and manages MRA’s strategic priorities, research portfolio, engagement with more than 90 corporate and non-profit Allies, and day-to-day operations. MRA, founded by Debra and Leon Black under the auspices of the Milken Institute, is the largest private funder of melanoma research.