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Melanoma Research Team Gets Boost with Grant

  Melanoma Research team

By Heather Newman

A team of researchers at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center has been awarded a grant to continue their work finding clues to how melanoma, an aggressive kind of skin cancer, grows and spreads and hopefully lead to clues on how to stop it.

The V Foundation for Cancer Research has given the Vanderbilt researchers a three-year grant for $600,000. Vanderbilt is one of only six sites who received funding for the organization’s translational grants. Jeff Sosman, M.D., director of the Melanoma Program at Vanderbilt-Ingram and Ann Richmond, Ph.D., professor of Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt-Ingram are co-primary investigators on the study.

“One of the problems with current treatment approaches for cancer patients is that it is often not based on information about the patient’s individual tumor. Our approach seeks to first examine the tumor biopsy for abnormalities of gene expression, and then test the effectiveness of drugs specifically targeting these genes by growing a small portion of the patient’s tumor in a mouse and subsequently giving chemotherapy to the mouse. Based upon which drug the mouse responds to, we will then treat patients accordingly,” said Richmond.

The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded by ESPN and Jim Valvano, a broadcaster and former North Carolina State University basketball coach who died of cancer in 1993. “One of the goals of The V Foundation translational research program is to move projects from the laboratory to the clinic faster,” Valvano said. “We are excited to fund these elite projects and look forward to keeping up with these talented scientists in the years to come,” said V Foundation CEO Nick Valvano.

The Vanderbilt research team includes co-investigators Mark Kelley, M.D., chief of Surgical Oncology and Endocrine Surgery at Vanderbilt-Ingram, Igor Puzanov, M.D., assistant professor and medical oncologist specializing in melanoma, and program coordinator Katayoun Amiri, Ph.D.

Other recipients of the translational grants include the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University, the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Duke University School of Medicine, the University of California, San Francisco Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation – Lerner Research Institute.