Melanoma Research Center of Excellence

Where You Are:
Donald A. Adam Comprehensive Melanoma Research Center of Excellence (MRCoE) and Skin SPORE

Florida is known as the Sunshine State, and the incidence of melanoma is very high.  In May 2007, Donald A. Adam, a melanoma survivor and banker, donated $20.4 million to Moffitt Cancer Center to expand expertise in the area of melanoma research.  The gift provided the foundation for Moffitt to develop the Donald A. Adam Comprehensive Melanoma Research Center of Excellence (MRCoE) and facilitated the recruitment of Jeffrey S. Weber, MD, PhD, to lead these efforts.  Dr. Weber works closely with James J. Mulé, PhD, associate center director of Translational Science and melanoma expert, and Vernon K. Sondak, MD, chair of the Cutaneous Oncology Department, to develop multidisciplinary research focused on melanoma. These leaders have brought together more than 30 clinical and basic research scientists to allow Moffitt Cancer Center to become a leading center of excellence in melanoma research.

Our Goals
The goals of the MRCoE are to be a leading contributor to the prevention and cure of melanoma and to quickly bring new laboratory developments to clinical trials.  The two main approaches are investigating and developing:
  • treatments that direct the immune system to attack melanoma cells
  • treatments and strategies to block pathways important for melanoma development, growth and spread

Our Members
The MRCoE includes a diverse group of expert scientists investigating the problem of melanoma from many different perspectives, all working together to understand the disease at all levels. Click on the names below to learn more about the scientists who make up our team.

Our Successes

  • More than 870 melanoma patients have entered into clinical trials supported by the MRCoE.
  • MRCoE investigators have obtained more $12.2 million in grant funding, published more than 40 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and presented more than 32 abstracts at national and international meetings.
  • An FDA-approved clinical trial using antibodies to protect against melanoma which is based on work performed by Dr. Weber.
  • The creation by Dr. Mulé of "designer lymph nodes" in the mouse, which led to a clinical trial of a vaccine against melanoma.
  • The discovery of a multigene "signature" by Dr. Mulé that may be associated with a positive outcome for melanoma patients receiving treatment.
  • The world's first complete sequencing of the entire melanoma genome, which will allow an understanding of the genetic changes that characterize melanoma and facilitate our efforts to target them with new drugs, was completed under the auspices of the MRCoE. The novel results of this effort have been submitted for publication.
  • The development of a unique, extensive database containing genetic and clinical information that can be used in clinical studies to help determine the best course of treatment for a patient.
  • The discovery by Dr. Weber and his team of a new antibody that stimulates immunity and increases the cancer-killing ability of immune cells in patients with cancer and which has had high response rates in patients who have failed multiple other therapies.
  • The recruitment of Keiran S. Smalley, PhD, in 2008. Dr. Smalley has emerged as a leader in the field of targeted drugs in melanoma. He is devising new ways to overcome melanoma's ability to become resistant to treatment. These new ideas are being tested at Moffitt in cutting-edge clinical trials led by Ragini Kudchadkar, MD.  Dr. Smalley also was awarded a prestigious grant from the National Cancer Institute to explore mechanisms of resistance to targeted drugs.
  • An upcoming study in melanoma patients of a new immune-altering drug that can augment the effects of other treatments will be conducted by Eduardo M. Sotomayor MD.
  • One of the first tests in humans of a new treatment for melanoma in which cells are harvested from the patient's own tumor has been conducted successfully at Moffitt by Amod Sarnaik, MD, and Drs. Mulé and Weber, using MRCoE resources.
  • Based on work done by prominent immunology researcher Dmitry I. Gabrilovich, MD, PhD, and supported by the MRCoE, melanoma treatments that increase the sensitivity of tumors to therapy will be tested in a clinical trial at Moffitt this year.
Director: Jeffrey S. Weber, MD, PhD

Alexander RA Anderson, PhD
Srikumar P. Chellappan, PhD
W. Douglas Cress, PhD
William S. Dalton, PhD, MD
Kathleen M. Egan, ScD
Robert J. Gillies, PhD
Anna R. Giuliano, PhD
Minjung Kim, PhD
John M. Koomen, PhD
Nupam P. Mahajan, PhD
Jane L. Messina, MD
David L. Morse, PhD
James J. Mule, PhD
Jong Y. Park, PhD
Shari A. Pilon-Thomas, PhD
Kasia A. Rejniak, PhD
Dana E. Rollison, PhD
Amod Sarnaik, MD
Michael J. Schell, PhD
Ed Seto, PhD
Keiran S. Smalley, PhD
Vernon K. Sondak, MD
Eduardo M. Sotomayor, MD
Andy M. Trotti, MD
Jeffrey S. Weber, MD, PhD
Jerry Wu, PhD
Shengyu Yang, PhD
Jonathan S. Zager, MD
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