Source: isak55 - Shutterstock
Source: isak55 - Shutterstock

The Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) said today it has awarded more than $8.5 million in new funding, in 34 new research awards, to 28 institutions in six countries, all aimed at advancing treatment and understanding of the most serious type of skin cancer.

The grants are intended to fund programs that accelerate additional therapeutic approaches, optimize the use of existing drugs and gain a better understanding of how melanoma forms. The 2017 grants bring to $88 million the total awarded by MRA, the largest private funder of melanoma research, since its founding ten years ago.

Among MRA Established Investigator Award winners is Elaine Fuchs, Ph.D., of The Rockefeller University, who will use genomics and transcriptomics techniques to better characterize melanocyte stem cells and their role in melanoma development and progression to malignancy and metastasis.

Siwen Hu-Lieskovan, M.D., Ph.D., of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is among MRA Young Investigator Award 2017-2020 winners. Dr. Hu-Lieskovan will analyze cellular and genomic changes in tumor biopsies from patients that are progressing on anti-PD-1 therapy and are receiving the oncolytic virus TVEC, to better understand the effects of TVEC on the anti-tumor immune response.

Janis Taube, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has won a Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma-MRA Established Investigator Award, 2017-2020, for research that will combine comprehensive genomic and protein expression analysis to identify multiplex biomarkers that predict responders and non-responders to anti-PD-1 therapy.

The 28 winning institutions include 23 U.S. academic institutions, as well as centers in Australia, Belgium, Israel, Spain and the U.K.

MRA also collaboratively funds investigators through three awards in which it provides one-third of funding matched by sponsoring institutions—The New York Genome Center-MRA Young Investigator Award; University of California Irvine-MRA Young Investigator Award; and, MD Anderson-MRA Young Investigator Award.

MRA’s 2017 grants are funded by donors and partners that include The Tara Miller Melanoma Foundation, the Sokoloff family, Immunocore, and The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.

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