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In Memoriam: Randy Lomax

The MRF and the melanoma community are mourning the loss of Randy Lomax, who died from melanoma on July 28, 2016.

Randy was diagnosed with Stage III melanoma in 2000, a time when no real treatment options existed. He knew that he was at a high risk of recurrence and so enrolled in clinical trials to try to lower that risk. And he became an advocate. Not just any advocate, but one who made a major contribution.

Randy joined the MRF's Board of Directors in 2002, and very quickly became Chair of the Board—a position he held for over a decade. Under his leadership, the MRF hired its first staff person, grew the grant portfolio exponentially, moved offices to Washington, DC and became an international presence in melanoma patient advocacy.

He was laser-focused on research, and built strong ties to the community of basic scientists and research clinicians. He befriended Dr. Meenhard Herlyn of the Wistar Institute, one of the great leaders in melanoma basic science research. Meenhard shared with Randy a vision for creating an academic group focused solely on research and organized a meeting of scientists for this very purpose. The MRF was the sponsor of the first dinner, and went on to support this fledgling group as it sought to find its way. Today, the Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) is the international leader in the advancement of science related to melanoma.
A decade ago, under Randy’s leadership, the MRF joined with the SMR to convene a melanoma summit at the National Cancer Institute, the result of which was a roadmap for moving melanoma research forward.

Randy fully embraced the concept of nurturing young investigators, and was proud to see MRF grant recipients advance in their careers and become the next generation of leaders. Although not a scientist himself, he would sit for hours in presentations at the big science meetings to familiarize himself with the latest advances in the field.

Randy never lost sight of the needs of patients, and was always open to phone calls from people desperate to find a new treatment. He referred countless individuals to top melanoma doctors, knowing that this was their best chance of beating this cancer.

Randy was inspired by the success other cancer groups have had in creating collaborative research groups, and joined with Dr. Keith Flaherty to translate this inspiration into action by forming the MRF Breakthrough Consortium (MRFBC) for the express purpose of accelerating “bench to bedside” research. The MRFBC has now been involved in several clinical trials and has created a virtual tissue bank that is being used by researchers to unravel the mysteries of melanoma.

Through all of this effort, Randy believed his personal battle with melanoma was over. He was involved in discussions about determining when a melanoma patient should be considered “cured” and be able to stop having scans. Then, after 16 years cancer-free, his melanoma returned. He benefited from the advances made over the past few years and engaged in a therapy that seemed to be effective. Unfortunately he developed complications that, ultimately, took his life.

Few people have influenced a movement as much as Randy influenced the melanoma community. The MRF today is the beneficiary of his legacy, as are untold numbers of patients who have been aided by his efforts. Rest in Peace, Randy. Although you are gone, your legacy will remain.

Written by MRF Executive Director, Tim Turnham

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the Randy Lomax Research Fund, click here.