Melanoma Research Alliance
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Accelerating Progress: Moving Toward a Cure for Melanoma 2008-2011 Report
I n March, animmunotherapy calledYervoy (ipilimumab)became the first drug
approved by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration
(FDA) in 13 years for
metastatic melanoma. Then the molecularly
targeted agent Zelboraf (vemurafenib), an
inhibitor of a mutated protein found in about
half of melanomas, was approved by the FDA
in August. These breakthroughs underscore
remarkable progress that has been unfolding in
the four years since the founding of the Melanoma
Research Alliance (MRA), a unique organization
whose mission is to find and fund the most
promising research worldwide. MRA is working
to better prevent, detect early and treat deadly
skin cancer, toward a day when no one suffers
or dies from melanoma.
No one person or organization can win the
battle against melanoma alone. We are thankful
to all who have engaged with us in this fight
researchers, supporters, allies, partners, and more.
This report offers a
retrospective of the four
years since the founding
of MRA, including the
progress we have made,
a highlight of scientific
findings, and a look to
the future of melanoma research. MRA funding has
been vital to unlocking the best treatments and
continues to offer hope for better therapies and
ultimately a cure.
As the pace of progress quickens, MRA is
re-doubling its efforts to accelerate research.
With more than $30 million awarded for promising
research, MRA has catalyzed strategic and collabo-
rative research efforts to discover new biomarkers
of treatment response, demystify drug resistance
mechanisms, and improve effectiveness through
combination therapies. MRA is working with all
who care about defeating melanoma, moving from
the year of melanoma to the year of the
melanoma cure as quickly as possible.
DEBRA BLACK , co-founder and chairWENDY K.D. SELIG , president and CEO
Our First Four YearsA period of landmark advances in melanoma research and treatment.
LETTER FROM THE CHAIR AND PRESIDENT
This is clearly the year of melanomaGeorge W. Sledge, Jr., M.D., American Society of
Clinical Oncology Past President - June 2011
MRA is a public charity formed in 2007 under
the auspices of the Milken Institute, with generous
founding support from Debra and Leon Black. The
mission of MRA is to accelerate the pace of scientific
discovery and its translation in order to eliminate
suffering and death due to melanoma. Thanks to the
ongoing support of its founders, MRA applies 100
percent of public donations to its research program.
In its first four years, MRA has committed $30.4 million
to 73 research programs with the potential to make
significant, near-term clinical impact in prevention,
diagnosis, staging, and treatment. MRA is the largest pri-
vate funder of melanoma research in the United States.
MRA 2008-2011About MRA 03
$30.4MRA has committed $30.4 millionto 73 research programs. It is thelargest private funder of melanomaresearch in the United States.
MRA research awards provide an important and unique
source of funding that addresses the gap in translational
science, which is a critical stage in moving scientific
discoveries into tools and treatments for patients.
Hallmarks of the MRA research portfolio include:
Focus on collaborative team science: Team
Science Awards, which fund multidisciplinary research
groups, account for almost three-quarters of research
funding to date, followed by a variety of individual
awards: Established Investigator, Young Investigator,
Pilot/Development Awards, and Partnership Awards.
THE FIRST FOUR YEARS
GROWTH OF MRAS RESEARCH PROGRAM
TOTAL COMMITMENTS BY AWARD TYPE
Thanks to the ongoing generous support ofits founders, MRA applies 100 percent ofpublic donations to its research program.
Investment in developing new treatments
for metastatic disease: Nearly 80 percent of
research funding is directed at melanoma treatment,
followed by diagnosis/staging and prevention. In
particular, MRA is investing significant resources to
improve upon the two new treatment approaches
immune checkpoint targeting and selective BRAF
Advances in key scientific and clinical
areas: MRA-funded research has made progress in
all of the key areas of opportunity identified at its
inaugural Call to Action meeting in 2007. Because of
NEARLY 80 PERCENT
Nearly 80 percent of researchfunding is directed at melanomatreatment, followed by diagnosis/staging and prevention.
the rapid progress that has been made, MRA has
updated and revised this agenda for the next four years.
Support for a diverse group of melanoma
researchers worldwide: MRA is funding 114
Principal Investigators at 56 institutions in 10
countries (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany,
Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden,
Switzerland, and the United States).
TOTAL COMMITMENTS BY SCIENCE AREA
MRA 2008-2011Strategic 05
United StatesPhoenix, AZLa Jolla, CALos Angeles, CAOakland, CAPasadena, CASan Francisco, CASanta Monica, CAStanford, CATampa, FLChampaign, IL
Chicago, ILBoston, MACambridge, MABaltimore, MDAnn Arbor, MIDetroit, MISt. Louis, MOPrinceton, NJCold Spring Harbor, NYNew York, NYRochester, NY
Cleveland, OH Philadelphia, PAProvidence, RINashville, TNHouston, TXSalt Lake City, UTCharlottesville, VASeattle, WA
Global PresenceLocation of Principal Investigators leading MRA-funded awards, 2008-2011
Collaboration is at MRA's corefrom the
team approaches to research that it funds
to the way it finds partners who can help
realize its vision. Relationships built with
other nonprofits, corporations, and individuals
continue to increase:
MRA and Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) are jointly
funding a Melanoma Dream Team of at least $6
million beginning in early 2012. This ground-
breaking award represents one of the largest single
private grants for melanoma research and the first
collaboration of its kind with SU2C.
In its first ever such offering, MRA selected two
Academic-Industry Partnership Awards in 2011
that will support projects in conjunction with matched
contributions from an industry partner whose
participation is essential to the project. MRA and the
partner company will jointly support research with a
high likelihood of clinical translation to help patients
and those at risk for melanoma.
MRA has co-funded research projects with fellow
cancer research foundations, including the Canadian
Cancer Society, Cancer Research Institute, and
Melanoma Research Foundation.
Funded by an MRA Team Science Award, Drs. NicholasHayward and Nicholas Martin (Queensland Institute ofMedical Research) and Dr. Graham Mann (WestmeadInstitute for Cancer Research and University of Sydney) discovered five new melanoma risk genes that conferredan increased risk of melanoma between 14 and 22 percent. In contrast to other known risk genes, none of
these appear to be associated withphysical characteristics such as fairskin or moles.
Relative contributionof pigmentation and other genes tomelanoma risk
Relative Contribution of Pigmentation and Other Genes to Melanoma Risk
Through its growing Allies program, MRA has raised
awareness of melanoma and funds for melanoma
research with nearly 50 companies who believe in its
mission. For example, with the help of key Corporate
Allies, including Claires, SkinCeuticals, and The
Sports Authority, MRA reached as many as 19 million
people with information about melanoma while
raising nearly $350,000 for melanoma research
during Melanoma Awareness Month in May 2011.
MRA also leveraged its affiliation with the Milken
Institute by hosting an outreach event on the closing
day of the 2011 Global Conference in Beverly Hills.
The event, supported by Corporate Allies Graff,
Montage and Style Network , introduced the work
of MRA to dozens of new supporters. Expanded
collaborations with additional companies that share
the MRA mission, as wel