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Patricia LoRusso, D.O., of the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Selected to Co-Lead Stand Up To Cancer – Melanoma Research Alliance Dream Team

December 13, 2011

First Female Physician-Scientist Appointed to help Lead Dream Team

DETROIT, Dec. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Patricia M. LoRusso, D.O., of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, Michigan; and Jeffrey M. Trent, Ph.D., of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, Arizona; have been selected to lead a prestigious Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) – Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) Dream Team. They will direct a Dream Team made up of some of the nation’s leading cancer experts to find more effective treatments for an aggressive form of skin cancer.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20071106/KARMANOSLOGO )

The Melanoma Dream Team will conduct personalized medical trials and extensive genomic profiling on patients with BRAF Wild-Type (BRAFwt) melanoma. The title of the Dream team project is “Personalized Medicine for Patients With BRAF Wild-Type Cancer.”

For the first time, SU2C is partnering with the MRA, as well as SU2C’s scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research, to fund this Melanoma Dream Team, a $6 million, three-year grant. As co-leader, Dr. LoRusso is the first woman to serve in a Dream Team leadership role since SU2C began funding Dream Teams in 2009. Together, Drs. LoRusso and Trent blend exceptional clinical and genomic expertise. Dr. LoRusso is director of Phase I Clinical Trials and the Eisenberg Center for Experimental Therapeutics at the Karmanos Cancer Institute, and professor of Oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dr. Trent is president and research director at TGen and the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. LoRusso is a world-renowned expert in clinical and translational research, and Dr. Trent is an internationally recognized expert in molecular-based approaches to cancer.

“Dr. LoRusso is an incredible leader and a pioneer in the area of testing novel therapeutics to advance personalized cancer care, developing the next standard of care that will be used around the world,” said Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO, Karmanos Cancer Institute. “This appointment is a testimony to the dedication of Dr. LoRusso and Dr. Trent and their relentless commitment to eradicate cancer. We congratulate them and their entire Dream Team on this outstanding recognition.”

With more than 70,000 cases of melanoma diagnosed each year and more than 8,000 people dying from this disease annually, more needs to be done to stop this aggressive disease. Approximately half of those diagnosed with melanoma are older adults. About 50 percent of all melanoma cases are BRAFwt melanoma cancer.

Currently, patients who develop metastatic melanoma have a dismal prognosis, with a median survival of six to nine months and a five-year survival rate of 15 to 20 percent. About half of patients with metastatic melanoma have an oncogenic mutation in their tumor’s BRAF gene, but the other half of patients are BRAFwt and have no mutation in the gene. Very little progress has been made to identify new therapeutic targets to treat metastatic melanoma patients with BRAFwt disease.

“Although there has been progress made in the area of melanoma cancer, patients with the BRAF Wild-Type melanoma still represent a disease with unmet needs,” said Dr. LoRusso.

“I feel very fortunate to co-lead this Dream Team with Dr. Jeffrey Trent, but also to be able to collaborate with our highly skilled team of clinicians, researchers and advocates from across the country to find personalized treatments, and hopefully a cure, for BRAF Wild-Type melanoma.”

According to Dr. Trent, “The SU2C-MRA grant gives us the remarkable ability to align cutting-edge researchers across the globe to join forces to defeat this terrible disease.”

The “Personalized Medicine for Patients With BRAF Wild-Type (BRAFwt) Cancer” proposal was the winning selection from 17 melanoma-focused submissions received from throughout the country. Proposals were rigorously evaluated by the SU2C-MRA Joint Scientific Advisory Committee chaired by 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.

The SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team Translational Cancer Research Grant 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.

About the Melanoma Dream Team
The “Personalized Medicine for Patients With BRAF Wild-Type (BRAFwt) Cancer” Dream Team is composed of a multidisciplinary group including experts in the medical management of patients with metastatic melanoma, drug development, genomics research, biostatistics, bioinformatics and patient advocacy. It includes laboratory and clinical researchers, senior and young investigators and senior scientists who have not worked together in the past, as well as patient advocates. In addition to Dr. Trent and Dr. LoRusso, team members include:

Principals:

  • Svetomir Markovic, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic
  • Brian Nickoloff, M.D., Ph.D., Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
  • Neal Rosen, M.D., Ph.D., Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  • Nicholas J. Schork, Ph.D., The Scripps Research Institute & Scripps Health
  • Aleksandar Sekulic, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic
  • Jeffrey A. Sosman, M.D., Vanderbilt University
  • Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
  • Craig Webb, Ph.D., Van Andel Research Institute
  • Joshua LaBaer, M.D., Ph.D., The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University

Advocates:

  • Mark Gorman, J.D., National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship
  • Derrick Hall, president of Arizona Diamondbacks MLB League
  • Connie Mack, U.S. Senator, Ret.
  • Jane Perlmutter, Ph.D., Gemini Group

The purpose of the team will be to identify patients with BRAFwt metastatic melanoma, do extensive genomic profiling on their tumor and identify a personalized therapeutic intervention based on the patient’s genomic makeup. Once the clinical trial is developed, patients will be able to enter a personalized trial to test the specific drug developed based on their tumor profile. The hope is that this personalized medicine approach will lead to more effective and lasting treatments, and potentially spare the patients from unnecessary treatments that are expensive, highly toxic and all too often have little or no benefit. The target for the start of the trial is estimated at mid-2012. For those interested in information on upcoming clinical trials, please email inquiries to MelanomaDreamTeam@karmanos.org.

In addition to the SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team, SU2C has also awarded grants to five other Dream Teams comprised of 221 scientists at 43 institutions.

About the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
Located in mid-town Detroit, Michigan, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is one of 40 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Caring for nearly 6,000 new patients annually on a budget of $216 million, conducting more than 700 cancer-specific scientific investigation programs and clinical trials, Karmanos is among the nation’s best cancer centers. Through the commitment of 1,000 staff, including nearly 300 physicians and researchers on faculty at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and supported by thousands of volunteer and financial donors, Karmanos strives to prevent, detect and eradicate all forms of cancer.

Its long-term partnership with the WSU School of Medicine enhances the collaboration of critical research and academics related to cancer care. Karmanos is southeastern Michigan’s most preferred hospital for cancer care according to annual surveys conducted by the National Research Corporation. Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., is the Institute’s president and chief executive officer. For more information call 1-800-KARMANOS or go to www.karmanos.org.

About Tgen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (Tgen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at Tgen is focused on helping patients with diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. Tgen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, Tgen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. Tgen is affiliated with the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information, visit: www.tgen.org.

About Stand Up To Cancer
Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) — a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501©(3) charitable organization — raises funds to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking translational research that will get new therapies to patients quickly.

SU2C’s “Dream Team” approach to funding translational cancer research enables scientists from different disciplines at research centers across the country and internationally to collaborate on projects geared toward getting new, less toxic treatments to patients as quickly as possible. Monies also support innovative cancer research projects that are often deemed “too risky” by conventional funding sources. Currently, more than 200 scientists from over 60 institutions are involved in SU2C-funded research projects — either as members of Dream Teams or as recipients of Innovative Research Grants. As SU2C’s scientific collaborator, the American Association for Cancer Research, led by a prestigious SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee, provides scientific oversight, expert review of the research projects and grants administration.

Members of the SU2C Executive Leadership Council include Katie Couric; the Entertainment Industry Foundation, represented by Board of Directors Chairperson Sherry Lansing (Founder of the Sherry Lansing Foundation), CEO Lisa Paulsen and Senior Vice President Kathleen Lobb; Rusty Robertson and Sue Schwartz of the Robertson Schwartz Agency; Pam Williams, partner at Laura Ziskin Productions; and nonprofit executive Ellen Ziffren. The late Laura Ziskin, a legendary film producer who executive produced the 2008 and 2010 SU2C telecasts, was also a co-founder of Stand Up To Cancer.

About the Melanoma Research Alliance

The Melanoma Research Alliance is a public charity formed under the auspices of the Milken Institute, with the generous founding support of Debra and Leon Black. It supports an international, cross-disciplinary group of biomedical researchers possessing clinical and scientific expertise to explore, identify and pursue innovative solutions to critical research questions, leading to better treatments and a cure for melanoma patients. Since its founding in 2007, MRA has become the largest private funder of melanoma research. For more information about MRA’s research programs, visit www.melanomaresearchalliance.org.

About the American Association for Cancer Research
The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 33,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowships and career development awards to young investigators, and it also funds cutting-edge research projects conducted by senior researchers. The AACR has numerous fruitful collaborations with organizations and foundations in the and abroad and functions as the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, a charitable initiative that supports groundbreaking research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated time frame. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special Conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care, and Educational Workshops are held for the training of young cancer investigators. The AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Discovery; Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Prevention Research. In 2010, AACR journals received 20 percent of the total number of citations given to oncology journals. The AACR also publishes Cancer Today, a magazine for cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers, which provides practical knowledge and new hope for cancer survivors. A major goal of the AACR is to educate the general public and policymakers about the value of cancer research in improving public health, the vital importance of increases in sustained funding for cancer research and biomedical science, and the need for national policies that foster innovation and the acceleration of progress against the 200 diseases we call cancer.

Visit AACR: www.aacr.org
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SOURCE Karmanos Cancer Institute


Source: PR Newswire