Thursday, December 15, 2011
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic researchers, Aleksandar Sekulic, M.D., Ph.D., and Svetomir Markovic, M.D., Ph.D., have been named to the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) and Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) Dream Team.
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The Dream Team, which includes some of the nation's foremost melanoma experts, will receive $6 million over the next three years to investigate the use of individualized therapy for patients with BRAF wild type (BRAFwt) metastatic melanoma, which currently has few treatment options. The team will explore the efficacy of molecularly guided therapy involving numerous Food and Drug Administration-approved and investigational agents. An ensuing clinical trial will determine whether this individualized approach significantly improves clinical outcomes, with a goal of a 30 percent improvement in tumor response relative to current standard-of-care therapy.
According to the Melanoma Research Alliance, patients who develop metastatic melanoma (stage IV disease) currently have a dismal prognosis, with a median survival of six to nine months and a five-year survival rate of 15 percent to 20 percent. About half of patients with metastatic melanoma have an oncogenic mutation in their tumor's BRAF gene, but the other half of patients are BRAFwt and have no mutation in the gene. Very little progress has been made to identify new therapeutic targets to treat patients with BRAFwt metastatic melanoma.
"Having a Dream Team of physicians and scientists focus on such an important and unmet need for patients who are not able to benefit from the latest breakthrough drugs is a most welcome development," says Debra Black, co-founder and chair of the Melanoma Research Alliance. "MRA's joining with Stand Up To Cancer and the American Association for Cancer Research to field such a talented and committed team marks an event of great significance that could herald the next wave of discoveries for patients and all those at risk for being diagnosed with this deadly skin cancer."
Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., institute professor at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, chaired the SU2C–MRA Joint Scientific Advisory Committee that performed a rigorous evaluation of Dream Team applications. The committee was composed of highly accomplished senior laboratory researchers and physician-scientists, as well as melanoma advocates.
The study will be headed by Dr. Jeffrey Trent, Ph.D., President and Research Director at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, and Dr. Patricia LoRusso, D.O., Director of the Eisenberg Center for Experimental Therapeutics at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.
In addition to Drs. Sekulic and Markovic, other Dream Team members come from the following institutions: Translational Genomic Research Institute, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Scripps Research Institute & Scripps Health, Van Andel Research Institute, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University, Arizona State University, Johns Hopkins University, National Cancer Institute, Queensland Institute for Medical Research, and University of California Santa Cruz.
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