Magdalena Thurin, Ph.D.
Metastatic melanoma is an aggressive and treatment-refractory cancer. Survival of patients with metastatic melanoma is poor because of ineffective treatment options. Both the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) and the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) press forward in finding cutting-edge science and translational research that will bring effective treatments to melanoma patients. With their efforts, exciting breakthroughs for the field of melanoma have been developed. Recently approved by FDA, ipilimumab for treatment of metastatic melanoma is the first drug ever to demonstrate improvement in overall survival for this disease. Ipilimumab (or anti CTLA-4 antibody) is an immunotherapy that works by stimulating the body's immune system. Another promising treatment with the BRAF-specific agent vemurafenib demonstrated remarkable responses (81%) in patients with metastatic melanoma carrying BRAF mutation. The importance of these targets in cancer therapy was discovered and clinically developed by researchers partially sponsored by MRA and MRF. Investigators supported by individual investigator and research team grants from MRA and MRF are also involved in developing molecular diagnostics for identifying those patients who could benefit most from these treatments. In addition, MRA and MRF are funding researchers to study resistance mechanisms and biomarkers of drug response in these patients.