Moffitt Merit Society 2013 Grant Winners Announced

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In previous years, the Moffitt Merit Society awarded one female scientist a $10,000 grant for furthering her research. But the 2013 Membership Luncheon in September was different. Due to tremendous growth in membership, the Merit Society was able to provide grant funding to all three researchers who had presented their initiatives to members at the Merit Society’s Coffee Talk events throughout the year. The following female researchers were honored at this year’s luncheon: 
Vadaparampil-2013.jpgSusan Vadaparampil, Ph.D. 
Developing a Psychoeducational Intervention to Increase Uptake of Genetic Counseling
$5,000 Grant Recipient
Breast cancer survivors with a BRCA mutation are at greatly increased risk of developing a new breast cancer in the opposite breast as well as ovarian cancer following diagnosis, compared to patients without a BRCA mutation. 
Genetic counseling provides patients with education about genetic risk for cancer and the process of genetic testing as well as the advantages and disadvantages of testing in order to promote an informed decision about BRCA testing. Studies show that Hispanic breast cancer patients participate in genetic counseling and testing at much lower rates than at-risk, non-Hispanic white women. Dr. Vadaparampil’s team documented that reasons for the lower uptake of genetic counseling and testing among Hispanic breast cancer patients likely includes less awareness of and access to genetics services and insurance, language and cultural barriers, and concerns about emotional responses to testing. 
Dr. Vadaparampil’s team had received a two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop and pilot test an educational intervention (booklet and DVD) to increase uptake of genetic counseling among Moffitt breast cancer patients. However, the NIH grant only included funds to create the intervention for English-speaking/English-preferring patients. With the Merit Society award, the team will propose to both linguistically and culturally adapt the currently developed intervention for Spanish-speaking/Spanish-preferring high-risk breast cancer patients. If shown to be effective, this intervention is a low-cost, easily portable and highly disseminable approach to increasing the use of genetic counseling to inform survivorship care in a diverse sample of breast cancer patients.
KudchadkarPhoto.jpgRagini Kudchadkar, M.D.
A New Definition for Melanoma 
$10,000 Grant Recipient
Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer and affects approximately one out of 50 Caucasian adults over a lifetime. In 1935, the incidence was one out of 1,500. This dramatic change has been attributed to changes in habits with a growing emphasis on tanning and increasing exposure to UVA and UVB rays in childhood via outdoor activities and tanning salons. Unfortunately, the mortality of the disease has also increased over the last 50 years by over 150 percent.  
Pediatric and young adults with melanoma (20 and younger) were previously non-existent. In fact, it was so rare that pediatric oncologists did not get training in the treatment of this disease and adult oncologists still often see children. Moffitt Cancer Center sees more children with melanoma than almost any other institution in the United States. Regrettably, pediatric melanoma is becoming a more common problem and we are seeing more of these cases every year. In fact, the incidence of pediatric melanoma increased 46 percent per year of age from 1973 to 2001.
One of the biggest challenges in pediatric melanoma is often the diagnosis. Children are afflicted with many benign skin lesions that can actually resemble melanoma under the microscope. Therefore, patients are often misdiagnosed and have a more aggressive and advanced disease when it is actually discovered. Funding from the Moffitt Merit Society will be used to develop better diagnostic techniques via exploration markers that can help distinguish benign skin lesions from melanoma in this population.
Pinder-photo.jpgMary Pinder-Schenck, M.D.
Lung Cancer Research: A Pathway to Hope
$20,000 Grant Recipient
Dr. Mary Pinder-Schenck’s research is aimed at bringing new treatments to patients with lung cancer and improving our understanding of the disease process. We now know that lung cancer is not one, but many diseases. Tumors can be tested for a variety of mutations and treatment can be tailored to each individual patient’s tumor. Dr. Pinder-Schenck is currently conducting a study to better understand how often lung cancer patients in the state of Florida are being offered this type of groundbreaking testing, and how the testing impacts their treatment.
Dr. Pinder-Schenck is also the principal investigator of several clinical trials evaluating new treatments for lung cancer. Many of the treatments she is evaluating target specific genetic abnormalities in lung cancer tumors. She is an advocate for patient involvement in the treatment process. And with the Merit Society grant, she will develop interventions to help patients become more aware of the need to test tumors for genetic abnormalities in order to receive better-tailored treatment.


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