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Scientists Join Stand Up to Cancer and Melanoma Research Alliance Dream Team

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VARI President and Research Director Jeffrey M. Trent, Ph.D., and Patricia M. LoRusso, D.O., professor of oncology at Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine will lead the project, which also includes Craig Webb, Ph.D., director of the VARI Laboratory for Translational Medicine, and Brian Nickoloff, M.D. Ph.D., division director of the Nicholas V. Perricone, M.D., Division of Dermatology and Cutaneous Sciences at MSU’s College of Human Medicine and director of Cutaneous Oncology at VARI.

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) and SU2C’s scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), announced the new Dream Team dedicated to melanoma research today. Melanoma of the skin is the fifth most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, where one person dies from the disease every hour.

“Combining resources to compete against this disease and accelerating the pace of cancer research are twin pillars of the Stand Up To Cancer approach, and we were delighted to work with the Melanoma Research Alliance on our first grant made in collaboration with another foundation,” said Sherry Lansing, one of Stand Up To Cancer’s co-founders. “Another exciting first is having Dr. LoRusso as the first woman among SU2C’s Dream Team leaders and co-leaders.”

Trent, an internationally recognized expert in molecular-based systems biology approaches to cancer, will serve as Dream Team leader. He is president and research director at VARI and at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, Az., where he is also professor in the genetic basis of human disease division and head of the melanoma therapeutics lab. His work is focused on applying genomic tools to study melanoma, and he is recognized for this work and his work in translational medicine.

LoRusso, Dream Team co-leader, is director of the Eisenberg Center for Experimental Therapeutics, principal investigator for the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute’s National Cancer Insitute-UO1-funded phase 1 program, and professor of oncology at Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Mich. She is a leading clinical investigator in early developmental therapeutics and will be principal investigator for the clinical trials, overseeing all clinical aspects of this Dream Team project.

“The collaboration between Dr. Trent, an expert in human cancer genetics, and Dr. LoRusso, a clinician and clinical trialist, exemplifies the types of expertise Stand Up To Cancer brings together in hoping to move science from bench to bedside where it can benefit patients quickly,” said Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., institute professor at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sharp chaired the SU2C-MRA Joint Scientific Advisory Committee (JSAC) in its unique, interactive, rapid and rigorous evaluation of Dream Team applications via a multi-step scientific review process. The committee is composed of highly accomplished senior laboratory researchers and physician-scientists, as well as advocates.

The SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team Translational Cancer Research Grant provides $6 million during a three-year period. The project is intended to accelerate the application of new therapeutic agents to the clinic, thus advancing scientific research in the interests of both today’s cancer patients and those who may develop cancer in the future.

"The Stand Up To Cancer-Melanoma Research Alliance grant gives us the remarkable ability to align cutting edge researchers across the globe to join forces to defeat this terrible disease," said Trent.

“Stand Up to Cancer’s Dream Team approach, and this project in particular, are truly emblematic of the collaborative nature of personalized medicine, in which experts from multiple disciplines converge as a dedicated team to integrate clinical expertise with unprecedented advances in knowledge and technologies, emphasizing the use of genetic information about an individual patient to optimize that patient’s care,” said Webb.

“Being part of this team is a huge honor and fulfills a professional dream to improve the practice of medicine when it came to patients with melanoma,” said Nickoloff, who for the past 15 years has been studying the disease that kills one person every hour in the United States. “While melanoma is not one of the most common cancers people think of, it is very deadly.”