Donald A. Adam Comprehensive Melanoma Research Center of Excellence

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Donald A. Adam Comprehensive Melanoma Research Center Of Excellence

In May 2007, Donald A. Adam, a melanoma survivor, donated $20.4 million to Moffitt to expand the Cancer Center’s expertise in melanoma research. His gift provided the foundation for developing the Donald A. Adam Comprehensive Melanoma Research Center of Excellence (MRCoE).

The goal of the MRCoE is to contribute to the understanding, prevention and cure of melanoma, one of the most serious and difficult skin cancers to treat. Newly diagnosed in more than 76,000 Americans in 2011, melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer if not discovered early.

According to Jeffrey Weber, M.D., Ph.D., director of the MRCoE, the team’s approach is to investigate and develop new treatments that induce the immune system to attack melanoma cells (immunotherapy) and to develop treatment strategies that block the biological pathways important for melanoma development, growth and spread (metastasis).

Their studies, published in leading medical journals, are groundbreaking.

For example, MRCoE researchers recently investigated an immune gene-related “signature” that can predict the presence of lymph node-like structures in melanoma metastases that contain immune components. The presence of these structures, say MRCoE researchers, appears to be associated with better survival and may indicate the possibility of selecting patients for immunotherapy based on the immune-related nature of their tumor makeup. Their study appeared in Scientific Report, a journal from Nature Publishing Group.

MRCoE researchers also have studied cases of childhood melanoma and found that the disease manifests differently in children than in adults. In particular, the effects of lymph node metastases are higher in children, yet these effects are less associated with child mortality than with adult mortality. The study was published in a recent issue of the Annals of Surgical Oncology.

Dr. Weber and colleagues have discovered that two monotherapy targeted drugs – dabrafenib and trametinib – can be safely combined to overcome or delay treatment resistance for a large percentage of melanoma patients with the BRAF V600 mutation. They published the results of their clinical trial in the November 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Weber was the senior author for the study.

“When these drugs were used separately, treatment resistance often developed along the mitogen-activ
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