Multi-Institutional Metastatic Melanoma Research Team Receives $900,000 L’Oréal Paris USA–MRA Team Science Award for Women in Scientific Research


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An international, multi-institutional research team consisting of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO); The Wistar Institute; Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre; the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has been awarded the L’Oréal Paris USA–MRA Team Science Award for Women in Scientific Research by the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA).

The L’Oréal Paris USA–MRA Team Science Award for Women in Scientific Research recognizes the collaborative efforts by female investigators whose research focuses on malignant melanoma, a characteristically aggressive cancer type. Representing Spain, the United States, and Scotland, the all-female–led team is exploring the mechanisms that distinguish (and mark) fast-growing melanomas from those that are ­dormant. 

There are four major goals of this 3-year project. The first goal of the project is to identify biomarkers of active metastasis. Secondly, the team will define how tumor cells can become “dormant,” and why at some point, they get “awakened.” Both of these studies will utilize sophisticated imaging models to visualize and trace melanoma cells in vivo from early stages of tumor development as well as reagents accessible by the entire team, particularly a large set of clinical specimens. The third goal aims to validate treatments that could attack both dividing and silent melanoma cells. The fourth objective is to mentor and empower new female researchers in the melanoma field.

The Team

Maria S. (Marisol) Soengas, PhD

Maria S. (Marisol) Soengas, PhD

Maria S. (Marisol) Soengas, PhD, is the Head of the Melanoma Group and the Dean for Academic Affairs at the CNIO, and serves as the lead investigator on this project. Research from her group focuses on oncogenic drivers and tumor suppressors that may serve as targets for rational drug design.

Ashani Weeraratna, PhD

Ashani Weeraratna, PhD

Ashani Weeraratna, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program at The Wistar Institute and member of The Wistar Institute Melanoma Center. Dr. Weeraratna’s research focuses on melanoma metastasis and the role of the aged microenvironment in promoting both metastasis and resistance, with particular expertise in Wnt signaling.

E. Elizabeth Patton, PhD

E. Elizabeth Patton, PhD

E. Elizabeth Patton, PhD, is a Program Leader within the MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, in the United Kingdom. Dr. Patton is an expert in melanocyte and melanoma genetics and development in zebrafish, with a special focus on innovative chemical. She has recently established the Zebrafish UK High-Throughput Small Molecule Screening Centre.

Lynn M. Schuchter, MD

Lynn M. Schuchter, MD

Lynn M. Schuchter, MD, is Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Program Leader for the Abramson Cancer Center’s National Cancer Insitute-approved Melanoma Research Program. She is the Co-Principal investigator of a highly competitive Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE), and is the current Chair of ASCO’s Cancer Research Committee.

Maria Soledad Sosa, PhD

Maria Soledad Sosa, PhD

Maria Soledad Sosa, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Mount Sinai Department of Medicine. She trained in the field of proteomics in melanoma and is an expert in tumor dormancy. She has identified novel mechanisms that control proliferation and quiescence of residual disease. ■



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