Letter from the Chairman

Dear Friends,

This year marks 20 years since the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) was founded by a young woman named Diana Ashby. When her doctors diagnosed Diana with Stage IV melanoma, they told her that her options were limited – no FDA-approved treatments for late stage melanoma existed and the 10-year survival rate for patients with metastatic melanoma was dismal. She was shocked and dismayed.
Diana was inspired to take action so others facing future melanoma diagnoses could live longer and better lives. Fueled by her passion and determination, Diana started the MRF in 1996 to do just that.
The first line of the first MRF by-laws read, “The purpose of The Melanoma Research Foundation (The MRF) is to support medical research to increase the effectiveness of treatment and to seek a cure for the deadly cancer known as melanoma, and to act as a resource for melanoma patients, their family and friends.” The MRF has stayed committed to that call, even after Diana succumbed to her cancer just before the first research grant was distributed. 
Over the past 20 years, the MRF has remained true to Diana’s vision: the organization has funded innovative research for new and better options to treat melanoma, educated people about preventing and catching it early and advocated for melanoma patients everywhere. In line with Diana’s vision, the MRF has become the leading voice for the melanoma patient community, working tirelessly to combat future and current diagnoses while offering care and support for those personally impacted. 
The state of melanoma has changed drastically. In 1996, people with Stage III and Stage IV melanoma had very few options and their futures were uncertain. Today, in 2016, over FIFTEEN FDA-approved treatments exist! They include immunotherapies, targeted therapies and more recently, combination therapies. 
This progress is a direct result of the commitment of the melanoma science and patient communities to drive innovative research forward. In fact, many of the new drugs recently approved by the FDA trace their early development to research grants from the MRF! And the melanoma research community is collaborating more than ever before. Recently, the MRF convened a symposium attended by 60 top melanoma researchers who together assessed the state of melanoma research with the intention of outlining the direction of melanoma scientific investigation for the next 10 years. 
And although melanoma diagnoses have continued to increase over recent years, more people are aware of the importance of preventing melanoma and catching any suspicious spots early. Great strides have been made in educating both the medical community and general population about this cancer, which has led to improved outcomes for those with melanoma. The MRF’s educational programs, campaigns and materials, including our website and social media channels, continue to be the "go to" resource for the latest information. Our data shows people from around the world are coming to our online materials in search of answers, and the MRF Board of Directors and staff are proud to serve as a reliable resource for those who might be struggling with this cancer. 
The MRF’s work continues to be guided by the melanoma community. Feedback from melanoma patients, caregivers, advocates, researchers and volunteers influence the direction of the MRF’s programs. In fact, 80% of the Board of Directors are melanoma survivors, patients, close family members of someone with melanoma and melanoma researchers. And almost every staff member and volunteer has a personal connection to this cancer.
Progress has been made over the past two decades but as a melanoma survivor myself, I know personally that the work is not yet done. Nearly half of patients are responding positively to the new drugs, but that still leaves many without effective options. Until we have FDA-approved treatments that benefit EVERYONE impacted by this disease, until melanoma is eliminated entirely, the MRF will continue to work to advance melanoma research, education and advocacy.
In fact, in honor of the organization’s 20th anniversary, the Board and staff will join the melanoma community in recommitting to and intensifying the battle against melanoma. Our dedication is articulated in our 20th anniversary logo: inspiring hope and progress.
I thank those who have supported the MRF over time and welcome all to join us as we continue our commitment to inspire hope and progress, and to make a very real difference in discovering a cure for this disease. 
This is a very special and impactful organization. Thank you for helping to make a difference in people’s lives. What better use of one’s time and energies could there be? I know Diana would be proud.

Steven Silverstein
Chair, Board of Directors
Melanoma Research Foundation