MD Anderson Letter And Annual Report
April 25, 2022
To Meredith's Mission for Melanoma
I would like to sincerely thank you and the Meredith’s Mission for Melanoma Research Fund for your support of the MD Anderson Melanoma Research Program. Your generous support has been used to accelerate exciting research on multiple fronts, including work on both immune and targeted therapies. This has also been an exciting year of progress overall in melanoma! I am happy to provide you with a brief summary of this progress, and of the ongoing work here at MD Anderson.
In the last year, 3 new treatments have been approved for patients with melanoma. This includes the approval of adjuvant treatment with pembrolizumab immunotherapy for patients with high-risk stage II melanoma. Pembrolizumab has previously been shown to be effective in patients with stage III and stage IV melanoma. With this approval, pembrolizumab is now available as a treatment to reduce the risk of cancer coming back in patients with high risk primary tumors (stage II), making it the first modern therapy to be approved in this setting. This year also saw the first approval of a treatment for patients with uveal melanoma, a rare and highly aggressive type of melanoma. This new treatment, tebentafusp, is an exciting new kind of immunotherapy, and in clinical trials it has been shown to markedly improve the survival of patients with this rare but highly aggressive disease. Finally, the FDA recently approved combination immunotherapy with nivolumab and relatlimab for patients with stage IV metastatic melanoma based on the RELATIVITY-047 trial, which was led by Dr. Hussein Tawbi, Professor and Deputy Chair of the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology at MD Anderson. After decades of little progress, this marked the 12th treatment to be approved for patients with metastatic melanoma since 2011! Thus, despite the many challenges of the COVID pandemic, melanoma research continues to make tremendous progress and clinical impact.
We are very excited about these new treatment options for our patients- all of which were made possible by researchers studying the regulation of the anti-tumor immune response. However, there is a continued need for new approaches for patients who aren’t cured by currently available therapies. This challenge remains the focus of our Melanoma Research Program at MD Anderson. Your generosity has helped to support our Melanoma Translational Pathology Laboratory (MTPL). The MTPL is a research lab focused on providing pathology expertise to support all melanoma investigators here at MD Anderson. In the past year, the MTPL has enabled detailed immune analyses of many new treatments, including the first detailed analysis of the effects of the recently approved combination of nivolumab and relatlimab. The studies by the MTPL are providing new clues about the factors that a critical to the success of this treatment, leading to new strategies that may be even more effective. Your support has also accelerated research focused on the role of abnormal metabolism in tumor cells. Our team has shown that melanoma tumors with resistance to immune and targeted therapies frequently develop increased use of, and dependence upon, a metabolic pathway called oxidative phosphorylation. We also showed that this metabolic pathway appears to play a critical role in the spread of melanoma to the brain. Dr. Vashisht Yennu Nanda, Associate Professor in the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, is now leading research that is exploring new ways to inhibit oxidative phosphorylation. We hope that inhibiting this metabolic pathway will improve the efficacy of immune and targeted therapies- and perhaps become a novel approach to prevent and treatment brain metastases. Importantly, these studies are utilizing medications that have been shown to be safe in patients so that positive findings can be rapidly translated into new clinical trials for patients.
On behalf of our entire Melanoma Research Program, I thank you again for your generous support. Support like yours is critical to advancing our research, and ultimately, to reducing the impact and burden of melanoma. As you can see, you are helping in Making Cancer History®! Please feel free to contact me if you would like to learn more about any aspects of our research.
Michael Davies, MD, PhD
Anne and John Mendelsohn Chair in Cancer Research
Professor and Chairman, Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology
Professor, Departments of Translational Molecular Pathology, Genomic Medicine, and Department of Systems Biology
Dell Medical News
"Meredith’s Mission’s continued support has allowed Dr. Ade Adamson to advance skin cancer research, outreach and advocacy through his work at Dell Medical School. With your support, we’ve hired a research coordinator to help study the quality of life related to patients who receive a diagnosis – while ensuring equitable care for all patients with melanoma – building upon grant support from American Cancer Society. Additionally, Dr. Adamson has since received a 2022 America Society for Clinical Investigation Young Physician-Scientist Award, which recognizes excellent physician-scientists who are early in career and have made notable achievements in their research, as well as received a pilot grant, in partnership with MD Anderson, to study melanoma specifically in Texas.”
Dr. Adamson has kindly acknowledged Meredith's Mission for Melanoma as a funding source for his research in various medical journals and papers, such as the Journal of American Medical Association Dermatology and the British Journal of Dermatology.