Eye Melanoma Initiative Secures Commitments to Fund $800,000 in Research

Mon, 2013-01-28

For Immediate Release: January 28, 2013

Contact: Lauren Smith
      (202) 347-9675
  LSmith@melanoma.org

Eye Melanoma Initiative Secures Commitments to Fund $800,000 in Research
-The Melanoma Research Foundation’s CURE OM Initiative Will Fund Two Ocular Melanoma Research Grants in its First Year-

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) today announces that the organization’s ocular melanoma (OM) initiative, CURE OM (Community United for Research and Education of Ocular Melanoma), has secured $800,000 to fund research in just the first year since the program’s creation. The funds will support proposals to advance research into new and better treatments, and eventually a cure, for OM.

Melanoma of the eye, also called ocular or uveal melanoma, is the most common eye cancer in adults and the second most common type of melanoma, impacting approximately 2,000 people in the U.S. every year. In about half of OM cases, the disease spreads to other parts of the body, most commonly to the liver, which is almost always fatal. People diagnosed with OM have few treatment options due to limited research dedicated to this rare cancer. Committed to advancing research into new and better treatments, and eventually a cure, for melanoma, the MRF established CURE OM in late 2011 to increase awareness, education, treatment and research funding of OM.

Led by CURE OM Co-Founder and Director, Dr. Sara Selig, who lost her husband to the disease in 2012, the initiative established the first OM research grant in 2012 and received 19 outstanding applications from all over the world. A rigorous peer-reviewed process spearheaded by CURE OM’s renowned Scientific Steering Committee narrowed the applications to the top six. After review from a second expert panel, the two most promising grants were chosen for funding.

The first two recipients of the CURE OM Research Grant Awards are Dr. Levi Garraway from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute of Harvard and M.I.T. and Dr. John Sondek from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Garraway, a world renowned and extensively published researcher in melanoma, will focus on identifying new gene mutations in OM as well as identifying new drug targets. Dr. Sondek, also world renowned and established in the field of g-proteins, will focus on the development of drugs aimed at targeting specific mutations known to exist in 80% of all ocular melanomas—mutations in the g-proteins, GNAQ and GNA11. Each recipient will receive $200,000 over two years.

“People with ocular melanoma have limited options when it comes to their treatment, yet researchers have a difficult time securing funding to focus on rare diseases like OM,” said Tim Turnham, executive director of the MRF. “This funding will enable established researchers to focus their attention on critical advances in OM for the first time ever. This will have an immense impact on the lives of people with OM.”

Generous donations were provided by Mark and Alison Weinzierl from Texas and the Isaacson family in Massachusetts. Guerbet, Inc., a leader in the medical device industry, has dedicated $100,000 over four years for a research grant in honor of Dr. David Eschelman from Thomas Jefferson University. While the grant is in Dr. Eschelman’s name, CURE OM will take proposals for peer-reviewed grants during a new grant cycle this spring to support additional OM research. Proposals can be submitted between March 1, 2013 and May 1, 2013. Visit the MRF’s website to learn more about the research grant process.

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About Ocular Melanoma
Ocular melanoma (OM), or uveal melanoma, develops in the eye and is the most common eye cancer in adults and the second most common type of melanoma. About 2,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year. In about half of all OM cases, the disease will spread to other parts of the body. When this occurs, it is almost always fatal. Visit www.cureom.org to learn more about the Melanoma Research Foundation’s OM initiative, CURE OM (Community United for Research and Education of Ocular Melanoma), which was established in 2011 to increase awareness, education, treatment and research funding of OM.

About Melanoma
Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States and can strike men and women of all ages, all races and skin types. With a one in 50 lifetime risk of developing melanoma, nearly 77,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with the disease in 2013, resulting in over 9,000 deaths. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25- to 29-years-old and the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults 15- to 29-years-old.

The majority of melanomas occur on the skin; in fact, melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma can also occur in the eye (ocular, or uveal melanoma), in mucous membranes (mucosal melanoma), or even beneath fingernails or toenails.
 

About Melanoma Research Foundation

The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) is the largest independent organization devoted to melanoma. Committed to the support of medical research in finding effective treatments and eventually a cure for melanoma, the MRF also educates patients and physicians about prevention, diagnosis and the treatment of melanoma. The MRF is an active advocate for the melanoma community, helping to raise awareness of this disease and the need for a cure. The MRF’s website is the premier source for melanoma information seekers. More information is available at www.melanoma.org. Find the MRF on Facebook and Twitter.