Why We Stand Up to Melanoma

By Wendy Selig, MRA President & CEO

SU2C 2014 wendy selig and ryan selig

Wendy Selig with her son Ryan

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 Selig 2013Wendy 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.

 

Partners in Prevention: MRA and The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer

Two years ago, the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) met with Dr. Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and asked the question that launched a milestone project to elevate melanoma and skin cancer on the agenda for public health: “How can MRA do more in partnership with government health agencies in the fight against skin cancer and melanoma?”

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Dr. Howard Koh, Wendy Selig and Dr. Boris Lushniak

With his medical background in oncology and dermatology, Dr. Koh needed no convincing about the importance of this cause given the dangers of skin cancer and the public health imperative for a coordinated national prevention strategy. To catalyze development of a national health agenda in the fight against skin cancer and melanoma, Dr. Koh and MRA convened a meeting of the leaders of all the relevant agencies within the U.S. Public Health Service, including the Office of the Surgeon General, the National Institutes for Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Government officials, medical experts, researchers, and thought leaders joined together 22 months ago for this important gathering and an incredible effort of collaboration began.

Fast forward to July 2014: yesterday with MRA’s President & CEO Wendy Selig in the front row, Dr. Koh and Acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak, himself a dermatologist, unveiled The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer. The Call to Action seeks to engage all levels of government as well as individuals, private sector institutions and organizations in a coordinated, multifaceted effort to prevent skin cancer.

The Call to Action is the most recent and final achievement in Dr. Howard Koh’s five years as a public servant before he returns to the faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health. MRA thanks Dr. Koh for his tireless work, leadership and advocacy of disease prevention and is honored to be recognized by him as one of the leading “partners in prevention” to instigate a national public health agenda to fight skin cancer and melanoma.

The Surgeon General has sounded the call for the nation to join together to fight this terrible but preventable cancer. The time for action is now.  Join us in the fight against skin cancer and melanoma!

Melanoma News Round-Up, June 14

Hello everyone!  Summer is in full swing and we have a fantastic video to share with you on the incredible promise of immunotherapy for melanoma treatment.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JGn1nJNm98]

 

And here’s the latest blast of melanoma news!

Tales from ASCO: Q&A with MRA’s Chief Science Officer Louise Perkins via Philly.com

New drugs target patient as well as disease, but who will pay? via Daily Herald

Nature study by MRA-supported researcher reveals need for multiple forms of sun protection via BBC News

Skin cancer drug that can extend patient’s life recommended for use on NHS via Telegraph

Immunotherapy Today: The View from ASCO via Cancer Research

What type of sunscreen is best? via Wall Street Journal

Melanoma News Round-Up, March 28

Take a look at this week’s melanoma news, which features new hope for patients through incredible research advances and compelling progress toward reducing the risk of melanoma through new sunscreens and stronger regulations on indoor tanning. 

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FDA review of new sunscreen ingredients has languished for years, frustrating advocates via Washington Post

Sunscreen delay: Stronger products need OK from FDA via FIOS1 News

New Hope for Melanoma Patients via ABC News

Drug Firms Focus on Advanced Melanoma via Wall Street Journal

Boy With Melanoma Raises Thousands Making Bracelets To Battle Cancer via CBS News

Clinicians emphasize risk of skin cancer in patients with skin of color via Dermatology Times

The Burning Truth campaign via the CDC

Melanoma survivor talks about bill that would ban teens from using tanning beds via WPXI

Inslee signs bill banning tanning beds for youth via King 5

MRA Talks Innovative Collaborations at Partnering For Cures Meeting

MRA was honored to be chosen to deliver an Innovator Presentation at FasterCures’ 2013 Partnering For Cures meeting, held last week in New York City. The event brings together leaders from all sectors of medical research to foster collaborations critical to speeding the development of new therapies.  MRA staff and leadership also attended panel sessions and networking events, and held partnering meetings with other attendees.

Wendy Selig, MRA’s President & CEO, presented our Academic-Industry partnership model as an example of successful collaboration in the drug development space.  She was joined by Julia Perkins, Medical Director of Oncology at Pfizer, as they discussed the collaboration between MRA and Pfizer that was launched earlier this year.

You can read more about the genesis of MRA’s Academic-Industry partnership with Pfizer here.

We had a fabulous meeting and look forward to attending the Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) Melanoma Congress meeting next week in Philly!

New Melanoma Therapies Approved

girl jumping and cheering

© Ladyminnie | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

These are the best types of posts to write:  On Wednesday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two genetically-targeted melanoma therapies as well as a companion diagnostic test that will be used to determine which patients’ tumors carry the specific genetic mutations the treatments target.  GlaxoSmithKline’s Tafinlar (dabrafenib) and Mekinist (trametinib) are designed for patients whose tumors express different types of BRAF mutations, mutations present in approximately half of all melanoma tumors.

The approvals mark a milestone in the fight against melanoma, expanding the arsenal of new weapons available to patients and their doctors from two to four, and highlighting the extraordinary progress being made in the melanoma research field. With one person diagnosed with melanoma every eight minutes in the U.S., one person dying every hour, and incidence rising at an alarming rate, new melanoma treatments are urgently needed.

MRA’s scientific team is headed off to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting this weekend in Chicago.  We expect more exciting melanoma research news will come out during the meeting, building on the tremendous momentum in the field.  Researchers, clinicians and industry leaders are exploring multiple genetically-targeted, immunotherapeutic and combinatorial approaches to combat melanoma, and the dramatic acceleration of the pace of discovery in melanoma is also fueling progress in other types of cancer, making melanoma a “case study” for new approaches to therapy.  You can follow all of the melanoma news coming out of ASCO by going to MRA’s Melanoma at ASCO Portal.

We are thrilled with these new treatment options, and hope to have many exciting days ahead in the battle against melanoma.

-Wendy

Wendy Selig Explains MRA’s Focus on Collaboration

Listen to Wendy explain MRA’s singular focus on collaboration and its transformative effect on awareness building and the drug development process!

This in an excerpt from a longer interview with m/Oppenheim Associates, an executive search firm that specializes in recruiting non-profit leaders.  You can watch the full interview here.

Want to learn more about MRA’s collaborations and corporate and non-profit allies?  Check them out on our website!