Thursday, December 15, 2011
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An inventive clinical study that includes Mayo Clinic researchers will pursue new therapies for a common type of melanoma that has few treatment options. This type of melanoma affects half of all patients diagnosed with this dangerous form of skin cancer. Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) and the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) are funding the $6 million study, which they announced today along with SU2C's scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).
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This collaboration — dubbed a Dream Team — will include nearly 50 scientists and 150 patients at more than a dozen institutions nationally and internationally. Mayo Clinic physicians Aleksandar Sekulic, M.D., Ph.D., a dermatologist and researcher at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, and oncologist Svetomir Markovic, M.D., Ph.D., at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, have been named to the team.
The effort will be headed by Jeffrey Trent, Ph.D., president and research director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, and by Patricia LoRusso, director of the Center for Experimental Therapeutics at Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.
To date, SU2C has funded five Dream Teams comprised of 221 scientists at 43 unique institutions.
This Dream Team's goal is to significantly improve treatment of these tumors, which are characterized by a normal (or wild type) BRAF gene, also known as BRAFwt. Very little progress has been made to date in identifying new therapies that can target this kind of metastatic melanoma. The other common form of melanoma has a mutation in the BRAF gene, which is being targeted with promising new treatments.
Metastatic melanoma in general has a poor prognosis. Typical survival is six to nine months, and the five-year survival rate is 15 percent to 20 percent, according to AACR.
In the United States, nearly 70,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma each year. Someone dies from melanoma every hour — nearly 9,000 annually, according to the organization.
The project is intended to accelerate the application of new therapeutic agents, quickly moving new scientific discoveries to clinics where they can immediately benefit patients. This Dream Team hopes that an individualized medicine approach to the treatment of BRAFwt metastatic melanoma will not only lead to therapeutic benefit for this patient population, but may also be beneficial to many other tumor and disease types.
Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) — a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization — raises funds to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking translational research that will get new therapies to patients quickly. SU2C's "Dream Team" approach to funding translational cancer research enables scientists from different disciplines at research centers across the country and internationally to collaborate on projects geared toward getting new, less toxic treatments to patients as quickly as possible. Monies also support innovative cancer research projects that are often deemed "too risky" by conventional funding sources. Currently, more than 200 scientists from over 60 institutions are involved in SU2C-funded research projects — either as members of Dream Teams or as recipients of Innovative Research Grants. As SU2C's scientific collaborator, the American Association for Cancer Research, led by a prestigious SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee, provides scientific oversight, expert review of the research projects and grants administration.
The Melanoma Research Alliance is a public charity formed under the auspices of the Milken Institute, with the generous founding support of Debra and Leon Black. It supports an international, cross-disciplinary group of biomedical researchers possessing clinical and scientific expertise to explore, identify and pursue innovative solutions to critical research questions, leading to better treatments and a cure for melanoma patients. Since its founding in 2007, MRA has become the largest private funder of melanoma research.
The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 33,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowships and career development awards to young investigators, and it also funds cutting-edge research projects conducted by senior researchers. The AACR has numerous fruitful collaborations with organizations and foundations in the U.S. and abroad and functions as the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, a charitable initiative that supports groundbreaking research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated time frame. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special Conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care, and Educational Workshops are held for the training of young cancer investigators. The AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Discovery; Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Prevention Research. In 2010, AACR journals received 20 percent of the total number of citations given to oncology journals. The AACR also publishes Cancer Today, a magazine for cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers, which provides practical knowledge and new hope for cancer survivors. A major goal of the AACR is to educate the general public and policymakers about the value of cancer research in improving public health, the vital importance of increases in sustained funding for cancer research and biomedical science, and the need for national policies that foster innovation and the acceleration of progress against the 200 diseases we call cancer.
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