News & Press
Hope Changes Everything
Guest blog post from MRF Board Chair Steven Silverstein:
I cannot imagine a more powerful and perfect tagline to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Melanoma Research Foundation.
Hope changes everything!
Hello, my name is Steven Silverstein and I have been a member of the MRF Board for the past twelve years and have had the honor of being the Chair for the past eight years. Seventeen years ago, my journey with melanoma started with a stage 4 diagnosis; I was given 6 to 12 months to wrap up my affairs and only a 6% chance of long term survival.
Twenty-five years ago, Diana Ashby envisioned an organization to bring together all aspects of the melanoma community, and that has been beautifully brought to life through the MRF of today. Hope is the most vital support for patients and families that any organization can provide. The MRF has been providing that hope for twenty-five years through our education programs offering the latest information on existing treatment options and linking patients to state-of-the-art clinical trials.
The organization has grown dramatically with the patient journey at the heart of our mission and we are proud to be the voice of the patient. 70% of MRF Board members are melanoma survivors themselves. We understand the challenges this disease brings to patients and their caregivers.
Research is in our name. From the very beginning, the MRF has brought together the research community to focus on finding cures for melanoma. Over the years we have funded over $20 million in research grants and critically, working with our Scientific Advisory Committee, we have developed symposia to define the state of melanoma science. These help to organize the community to explore the most pressing and potentially impactful areas of the disease. Topics include THE definitive white paper on the state of melanoma, brain metastasis, uveal melanoma, pediatric melanoma and recently the impacts on COVID-19 on melanoma patients.
Over the years the MRF has expanded our research and support efforts to include the rare subtypes of melanoma. We have brought together the scientific community from around the world to study these very rare diseases to help find cures. The first program was started by Dr. Sara Selig and her husband Dr. Gregg Stracks to find better treatments and, one day, a cure for ocular melanoma (OM). Their efforts created the CURE OM initiative, which Sara now leads as part of the MRF team, pulling researchers together in the field and bringing patients together with the latest information to create a community. Today, this group is thriving with annual scientific conferences and support meetings for patients and caregivers. Using this model, the MRF has created similar programs for the pediatric melanoma community and now for the acral and mucosal rare subtypes. Hope is everything, and through these vital programs, hope is now part of these patients’ journeys.
MRF Advocacy programs support awareness and prevention campaigns on Capitol Hill and throughout the country. The MRF has leveraged the power of our advocacy efforts to help establish melanoma as a participating disease in the Department of Defense Cancer Research Programs. Since 2009, the community has now received over $90 million in federal research funding. Two years ago, we were able to create a separate line item for melanoma in the defense appropriations bill specifically for melanoma. Next year $30 million will be available in research grants for melanoma study. Other priorities include pressing for tanning bed legislation for minors and advocating for sun safety funding and support through the many different government agencies.
None of the wonderful progress we have made could have been possible without the support of our community of volunteers, supporters and our staff. Over the years, thousands have dedicated their time and efforts to help advance the MRF’s mission. From the volunteers who help our runs and galas across the country, to the Board members who have guided the organization over the years, thank you for all you have done and continue to do. Our corporate sponsors have stood by the MRF over these years providing funding and guidance as together we develop programs to support our patients and caregivers. Our staff has done outstanding work, bringing these programs to life in a cost effective and highly impactful way.
A special thanks to our partners in the science and medical community. Our Scientific Advisory Committee has guided our research efforts from the very beginning, assuring every dollar is invested in the best science available with the biggest potential impact on finding a cure. They volunteer enormous time and effort driving our grant and science programs forward. We are greatly appreciative of their time, efforts and wisdom.
Twenty-five years ago, there were no FDA approved treatments for melanoma. Seventeen years ago there was one, Interleukin 2, with a 6% long term survival rate. Today, there are over a dozen approved drugs and treatments with survival rates of 40 to 50%, with many more in the pipeline. Critically, many of these drugs developed for melanoma are now being successfully deployed in different cancers with excellent results.
Over these last 17 years I have had the joy of watching my 2 daughters grow, attending high school graduations, college graduations, graduate school graduations and even walking them both down the aisle at their weddings. Now, on to the fun of being with their own children.
Hope changes everything.
On to the next 25 years! Please join us in this challenge of supporting each other and helping to find a cure.
Hope changes everything, and that hope continues because of your support. In honor of the progress of our past and the promise of our future, please consider a tax-deductible gift today: