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The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) and its Funded Researchers Contribute to International Science Meetings

From November 6-9, 2023, the 20th International Congress of the Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) convened in Philadelphia, PA to share research updates on the latest trends in the melanoma space and move the field forward. The MRF had a strong presence at the meeting starting right at the beginning with the keynote presentation by Ze’ev Ronai, PhD, a  MRF research grant recipient, on “A Journey of Science and Medicine Spanning 20 years.”

In partnership with SMR, the MRF held three meetings to accelerate research and strategic partnerships to improve the lives of patients. The first of the three meetings was the 12th Annual CURE OM Global Science Meeting which brought together more than 80 clinicians, researchers, patients/ caregivers, and industry supporters to increase coordination and collaboration in the field and advance ocular melanoma (OM) research. In the full day meeting, OM research sessions focused on the latest updates in both pre-clinical and clinical research, as well as current barriers and how to overcome them.  The second meeting involved the MRF Breakthrough Consortium (MRFBC).  MRFBC members shared pivotal research updates that are poised to advance breakthroughs in melanoma treatment.  Discussions focused on cutting edge work at member sites, as well as presentations by MRF funded researchers such as: Minah Kim, PhD on her work focused on enhancing immunotherapy efficacy and Diwakar Davar, MD on his work treating PD1 naïve high risk melanoma patients with neoadjuvant .  The last of the three meetings, the Global Melanoma Coalition, comprised of 32 organizations representing 20 countries, met to discuss prevention and awareness as well as equitable access to emerging melanoma testing and treatment. Members of the coalition had the pleasure of hearing from noted leaders in melanoma such as Jeffrey Weber, MD, PhD on topics ranging from the emerging science of the melanoma vaccine to global access and advocacy for genomic testing.

During SMR, presented work from MRF-funded researchers included that from the laboratory of Stefan Kurtenbach, PhD (presented by Gulum Yenisehirli) focused on possible new treatment angles for uveal melanoma.  Work from the laboratory of Emily Bernstein, PhD (presented by Elena Grossi, PhD) focused on better understanding a subunit involved in transcription which is mutated in 11-18% of melanoma cases. Lastly, grant recipient Signe Caksa (mentor: Andrew Aplin, PhD) presented her work on a protein whose expression is increased in melanoma and may impact immunotherapy response.

The SMR meeting concluded with honoring its 2023 Award Recipients, including two funded by the MRF- the Young Investigator Award recipient Benjamin Izar, MD, PhD (a member of the MRFBC and co-chair of the MRF Mucosal Melanoma Translational Working Group) and the Christopher J. Marshall Award recipient Sydney Shaffer, MD, PhD.

During the 38th Annual Meeting for the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC), MRF grant recipient Rana Falahat, PhD presented her research on signaling a pathway that when targeted, may lead to more effective melanoma immunotherapy-based interventions.

inspired by the growing community of researchers and clinicians in the field of melanoma. The research discussions are timely allowing collaboration and advances in the field every day. The research presented at these several meetings brings great hope for melanoma patients around the globe.