Making the World Go Round
They say that money makes the world go round. That money talks. Certainly in the research field, money is the key to progress.
We can truly say that right now in melanoma research, money is the primary limiting factor impeding progress.
For many years the basic biology of melanoma was not understood well enough for scientists and doctors to make real progress. With greater knowledge of cancer biology, however, this is no longer the case. Of course, many questions must be answered. To think we have teased out all the mysteries of this trickster would be the height of arrogance. Still, the path forward is clear. More urgently than ever, researchers need the resources to pursue that path efficiently and effectively.
When the Melanoma Research Foundation started funding research 14 years ago, we did so with two goals in mind. First was to bring financial resources to bear in a field that was woefully underfunded. Second was to invest some of that money in young melanoma investigators, in hopes they would build a career focusing on melanoma.
Fortunately both investments have paid off in big ways.
When our Board of Directors holds its biannual meeting in Los Angeles next month, they will be hosted by Dr. Toni Ribas. A few years ago Dr. Ribas was awarded a Career Development Award, given to young investigators. This year he received an Established Investigator Award.
The funding MRF distributes comes largely through thousands of small donations made by people all over the country and even around the world. Two young children host a lemonade stand because their mom has melanoma. A couple who lost their daughter runs a candy store and collects donations. A 5k run is held by volunteers in Delaware. And in New Jersey. And in Nashville. And in Wisconsin Dells. And in Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, Jackson, Tampa, and---you get the picture.
These contributions have changed the landscape of melanoma research. But MRF has done even more. We have provided scientific leadership in pushing for funding from the federal government. Because of our efforts, Congress requires the National Cancer Institute to issue a report each year on what they are doing in melanoma. And the Department of Defense is now funding some melanoma research. (Think of the soldiers serving in sun-drenched areas and you will understand why.)
Still, we must do more. We must work harder, faster, bigger, more efficiently. Today I am traveling for an important meeting. A young colleague—about the age of my daughter – was scheduled to go with me, but her spouse has had a setback. Significant progression of the melanoma, with multiple aggressive tumors. If all it takes is money to keep people from going through this journey, then we will find the money. Somehow, some way, we will fund the science that will accelerate new and better treatments. Given the opportunity we see right now to transform melanoma into a manageable or curable disease for most patients, failure truly is not an option.