News & Press

Honoring President Carter, A 2016 Courage Award Winner

The MRF honors President Jimmy Carter with a Courage Award in recognition of his fight against melanoma and the awareness he raised by sharing his experience with the public.

President Jimmy Carter. Photo Credit: Mercer University

Last year’s announcement by President Jimmy Carter that he had melanoma pushed this disease into the national spotlight in a way never before seen. Reporters who previously had no interest in melanoma suddenly reached out to the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) for more information. We answered many questions about the disease, repeating to astonished reporters that yes, melanoma can develop on your liver and yes, skin cancer can metastasize to the brain.

After President Carter’s announcement, people across the country were suddenly interested in learning more. We saw an uptick in visits to the MRF’s website from Google searches, including “What is melanoma?” and “Do I have melanoma?” Whether he knew it or not, President Carter’s willingness to speak about his cancer helped thousands of people learn more about, and seek treatment for, melanoma.

That is why we are pleased to present President Carter with a Courage Award at the 20th Anniversary Wings of Hope for Melanoma gala in New York City. This award is given to individuals who have shown tremendous strength in their personal battles with melanoma. Unfortunately, President Carter is unable to attend in person due to a prior commitment. He will, however, be recording a special message that will be shared during the gala and through the MRF website. I look forward to my trip to Atlanta next week to present him with the award and thank him, on behalf of the MRF and the melanoma community, for the work he has done to bring attention to this disease.

President Carter’s experience with melanoma also showcases the need for continued research and treatment innovations. The new drugs approved over the past five years are game-changers for many melanoma patients, but we still face limitations in who benefits and who has access. Since 2011 multiple new treatment options have been approved by the FDA, including immunotherapies such as the one President Carter took. If President Carter had been diagnosed 10 years ago, he may not be alive today to accept the MRF’s Courage Award.

The need for continued innovation in treatment is why the MRF makes research, including funding grants, a core piece of our mission. Since it began in 1998, our research grant program has supported promising medical research and brought us closer to our ultimate goal of supporting the development of effective treatments, and eventually, a cure for melanoma. We have funded millions of dollars through the grant program, supporting dozens of top-tier researchers and institutions. Those grants span the spectrum of the disease, including cutaneous, ocular and mucosal melanoma. The collection of grants for 2016 include projects ranging from the regulation of response to targeted inhibitors in uveal melanoma to HLA antigen mismatch and melanoma outcomes in organ transplant recipients.

But our work is not done. President Carter is still with us, but the same is not true for thousands of families across the country who have lost a loved one to the deadliest form of skin cancer. Every hour of every day someone dies from melanoma. Only by generating awareness, like President Carter has done, and funding research grants that drive progress, do we get closer to our ultimate goal of eradicating melanoma for good.

Written by MRF Executive Director Tim Turnham