Scientific Milestones of the MRF

Over the years, the Melanoma Research Foundation has achieved a number of important milestones in its drive to uncover new treatments for melanoma, gain traction for broader public awareness, and to build a thriving community of melanoma survivors and advocates. Below is a brief timeline highlighting key dates:


  • CURE OM, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) collaborate for a uveal melanoma workshop. This year’s preeminent international research meeting in melanoma, the 2013 SMR Congress, will include a full-day educational seminar and workshop dedicated to uveal melanoma. CURE OM’s Scientific Steering Committee has been actively involved in developing this first time agenda.
  • The MRF Breakthrough Consortium (MRFBC) launches biospecimen Virtual Repository for clinical trials. Translational research will be accelerated with the specimen tracking system and virtual repository, operating under harmonized SOPs across MRFBC trials.


  • The MRF expands its research program by 60%. 2012 marked a banner year for the MRF's research program. It was the 15th year of providing research grants to junior and senior investigators, the second year of offering medical student awards and the first year of awarding a research grant specifically for ocular melanoma through our CURE OM initiative. These awards, paired with a $125,000 grant to Dr. Meenhard Herlyn at The Wistar Institute, and $500,000 in support of the MRFBC, put the MRF's research program support at $1.5 million dollars.
  • CURE OM hosts its first two scientific meetings. A CURE OM Round Table discussion was held with a group of international and interdisciplinary experts in uveal/ocular melanoma to discuss treatment guidelines. (These guidelines are currently being prepared for publication and will be posted soon.)


  • The MRF launches a new initiative, CURE OM, to improve the lives of people affected by ocular melanoma. CURE OM works to support and accelerate the development of effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure for ocular melanoma; improve the lives of people affected by ocular melanoma by creating systems and programs to provide education and support; and advocate for the ocular melanoma community.  
  • On October 3, 2011 MRFBC collaborated with the NCI to develop a multi-sector seminar on PD-1 inhibitors and to encourage their development. The field is now comprised of multiple companies developing a variety of antibodies directed at several targets in the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway.


  • The MRF launches the MRF Breakthrough Consortium (MRFBC). To bring focus on the need for development of combination therapies, the MRF launched the MRFBC, which now is comprised of 16 centers of excellence, incorporating all of the melanoma SPOREs.
  • On February 24, 2010, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Amy Harmon writes a series of articles on drug development opportunities and challenges and describes the newly founded MRFBC.


  • The MRF joins as members on the review panel of DoD-funded peer-reviewed cancer research. For the first time, $4 million dollars were earmarked to support research grants for melanoma and other skin cancers. Since then, the MRF has taken part in the annual review panel.
  • The MRF receives the Partnership Award from the Society for Melanoma Research (SMR), for providing outstanding support to SMR and its mission. 


  • The MRF develops a strategic plan - the Community-Oriented Strategic Action Plan for Melanoma Research of 2007. The NCI partnered with the MRF and SMR to convene a meeting that would address the Congressional request to identify and prioritize new directions for melanoma research - including innovative technologies, new targets for more effective therapy and guidance on how to facilitate translational research. The meeting was held February 27 - March 1, 2007 in Bethesda, Maryland. Co-chairs of the meeting were Meenhard Herlyn, former Board member and co-chair of the MRF SAC and Alison Martin of the NCI, now CMO of the Melanoma Research Foundation Breakthrough Coalition (MRFBC).
  • The resulting document, the Community-Oriented Strategic Action Plan for Melanoma Research of 2007, was submitted to Congress for what has turned out to be a continuing multi-sector discussion with the NCI Office of Planning and Assessment (OSPA). This more detailed, scientific version was published in Seminars in Oncology, December 2007, to involve a wider audience. 
  • Citation: Herlyn, M.; Halaban, R.; Ronai, Z.; Schuchter, L.; Berwick, M.; Pinkel, D Roadmap for new opportunities in melanoma research. Semin Oncol (2007) 34:566-576.


  • The MRF forms a partnership with the Cancer Diagnosis Program (CDP) of the NCI. CDP, the melanoma SPORE program and the MRF together sponsor a workshop focused on the critical need for biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis and prediction.
  • As a result, CDP provided supplemental funding to six institutions for tissue collection for use in the development of a tissue microarrays (TMAs) bank that would be made available to researchers. TMA technology allows hundreds of tiny tissue samples from a variety of patients to be put on a single slide, conserving a scarce resource and allowing research on numerous samples in one experiment. Read about the partnership.


  • The MRF develops a national "roadmap" for new opportunities in melanoma research. The MRF, NCI and the Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) created a strategic multi-sector, multi-disciplinary research agenda to guide stakeholders. As a result, this "roadmap” provided the groundwork for Congress to request the 5-year NCI strategic plan for melanoma research and subsequent annual updates.


  • The MRF began a partnership with the SMR to convene the annual International Melanoma Congress, an open meeting that provides an opportunity for investigators, clinicians and students to share their research results with a multi-disciplinary audience and look for areas to collaborate. The meeting reports are published in Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, the official journal of the International Federation of Pigment Cell Societies and the SMR.


  • The MRF launches its annual research grant program.  To date, the MRF has distributed millions of dollars through an annual grant program supporting research in prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Proposals are reviewed by an independent Scientific Advisory Board comprised of internationally acclaimed melanoma experts.


  • The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) was founded in 1996 by Diana Ashby, a melanoma patient. Learn more about the history of the MRF.