Member spotlight: The Melanoma Research Alliance

By Wendy K. D. Selig, president and CEO of Melanoma Research Alliance

The Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), a unique non-profit organization that funds the most promising melanoma research, was founded in 2007 by Debra and Leon Black under the auspices of the Milken Institute. In just six years, MRA has become the largest private funder of melanoma research and has awarded almost $48 million to 116 different research programs worldwide. MRA-supported projects are dedicated to accelerating progress toward the prevention, detection and treatment of deadly skin cancer.

In order to raise awareness of this disease and the need to invest in research for live-saving treatments, we are participating in Melanoma Awareness Month during the month of May. Investment in melanoma research is still sorely needed—the incidence of the disease is increasing across all segments of the population, including young adults and children. Melanoma is the most common cancer among men and women aged 25-29 and takes one life in the U.S. every hour.

Over the past five years, melanoma research has seen enormous advances, largely due to the infusion of much-needed resources for research and the culmination of decades of scientific inquiry. Research has sought to better understand the mechanisms of action and variation in genetic drivers that fuel this insidious disease. Two new therapies were approved by the FDA in 2011, but they alone will not cure the majority of melanoma patients.

Continued progress in this critical area depends on sustained research funding, and a vibrant federally-funded biomedical research enterprise. MRA works alongside similar non-profit organizations, cause-oriented corporations, policy leaders and patient advocacy groups to encourage continued prioritization of funding for the National Institutes of Health. Research!America helps to provide a crucial network for collaboration among some of these organizations, effectively leveraging the unique voices of hundreds of groups that share the same goal: accelerated progress in research to defeat serious and life-threatening diseases like melanoma.

The nation’s research enterprise is currently stressed by years of stagnant funding levels and, most recently, ill-timed and ill-considered cutbacks as a result of sequestration. These cuts are threatening to slow and reverse recent progress, as labs are unable to complete their work and scale back workforces.  Unfortunately, young scientists, whose innovation and energy are vital to discovering novel means to combat melanoma, are often hit hard by funding cutbacks. MRA strives to attract the best and brightest minds to its esteemed Young Investigator Award Program, but many of these researchers could become discouraged in the face of the funding drought and subsequently leave the field right as it is on the cusp of significant progress. MRA is pleased to be a member of Research!America as it works to ensure sustained federal investments in medical research.

To learn how you can protect yourself from the dangers of melanoma and connect with MRA’s exciting initiatives throughout Melanoma Awareness Month please visit our website at www.curemelanoma.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter @MelanomaReAlli.

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