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CURE OM Announces New Research Grant Recipients and Celebrates Two-Year Anniversary

The Melanoma Research Foundation’s CURE Ocular Melanoma Initiative Announces New Research Grant Recipients and Celebrates Two-Year Anniversary

WASHINGTON, D.C.—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. Two years ago this month the Melanoma Research Foundation launched a new initiative called CURE OM (Community United for Research and Education of Ocular Melanoma) specifically to accelerate research into OM and support for the people affected by this disease.
CURE OM has much to show for its first two years. Because of limited research on this rare form of melanoma, few OM treatment options are available to patients if the disease has spread beyond the eye to other areas of the body. Through the MRF, CURE OM has committed $800,000 in research support specifically focused on ocular melanoma over the past two years. In addition, the program has provided significant scientific leadership to the field by convening experts from around the world to address the most pressing needs in basic and clinical research.  
Current research funding includes the 2013 CURE OM research grant awardees Dr. William Tansey from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dr. Richard Carvajal from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, both of whom will look deeper into the signaling pathways of OM with the goal of understanding better how to target and halt the disease with effective treatments. They join the 2012 CURE OM award recipients, Dr. Levi Garraway and Dr. John Sondek. Click here to learn more about the CURE OM research grant recipients.
“The decision by the MRF and CURE OM to fund ocular melanoma research projects should provide a real boon to this field. Several major insights into ocular melanoma biology and genetics have been gleaned in recent years. At the same time, much more work remains to ensure that this research translates into effective new treatments for patients,” says Levi Garraway, MD, PhD, from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute. “Given the current funding environment, initiatives such as the MRF/CURE OM grant mechanism are crucial in order to accomplish this goal. Certainly, my lab would not have been able to focus so intensively on key OM research questions without the support of CURE OM.”
CURE OM has also become a leader in providing patient support and education. “Since its inception, CURE OM has made remarkable progress in expanding scientific research and patient programs necessary for people impacted by this rare and often deadly disease. This has been a group effort and I am grateful to work with such a great team and in partnership with so many dedicated volunteers,” says Dr. Sara Selig, CURE OM Co-Founder and Director, who lost her husband, Gregg, to the disease shortly after the initiative was established with the MRF in 2011. “Gregg and I learned firsthand that in order to make meaningful progress for people fighting this disease, we need to continue focusing special attention, resources, and unwavering commitment to scientific inquiry and patient/caregiver support.”
CURE OM’s major accomplishments in the first two years include: 
  • New funds and grants for OM research. CURE OM raised more than $800,000 for research purposes, and provided $650,000 to researchers through an international and interdisciplinary peer-reviewed grant process. 
  • New meaningful partnerships. Since 2011, CURE OM has joined forces and forged meaningful partnerships with organizations including the National Cancer Institute, The Cancer Genome Atlas and The Society for Melanoma Research to drive research efforts. 
  • Patient and caregiver committees and tools. Alongside leading cancer centers, CURE OM has hosted the first two annual international patient and caregiver meetings, developed a steering committee of patients and caregivers and created six educational webinars to help patients and caregivers navigate challenging issues in diagnosis and treatment. The MRF also expanded its Phone Buddy program to offer more OM-specific support services.
  • International, interdisciplinary scientific growth. CURE OM has hosted four international scientific meetings and developed an interdisciplinary and international scientific steering committee. In doing so, CURE OM has established a critical dialogue that will speed research and better capitalize on successes in the field.  
  • Expanded access to information online. With an influx of research, CURE OM has opened new avenues to support, inform, and connect with the OM community through its presence both on the MRF’s website and on social media. 
Half of all people diagnosed with OM will develop metastatic disease (in other words, the cancer will spread to other parts of the body) which is almost always fatal. Many others will suffer partial or complete vision impairment. CURE OM is committed to helping people affected with ocular melanoma live longer and better, and to supporting the research that will help make that possible.
Contact: Lauren Smith
               (202) 347-9675
               [email protected]
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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 9,400 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 the 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.