Stem cell research

May 15, 2014

Michael Gossie

D-Backs salute cancer research at TGen

As part of Melanoma Awareness Month, the Arizona Diamondbacks will recognize Dr. Jeffrey Trent, President and Research Director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and leader of the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) Melanoma Dream Team.

Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall will salute Dr. Trent, TGen, SU2C and the Melanoma Research Alliance in a pre-game ceremony at Chase Field just prior to the 5:10 p.m. start of the May 17 game between the D-backs and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hall will present Dr. Trent with a check towards TGen scientific research in the amount of $25,000.

The Diamondbacks and Major League Baseball are significant supporters of SU2C. TGen is the only institute to have faculty leading two different SU2C Dream Team grants: the Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team in 2009, and the Melanoma Dream Team in 2011.

“It is my distinct honor to recognize the incredible work being conducted here in Arizona at TGen, and specifically recognize the accomplishments of our native son, Dr. Jeffrey Trent,” Hall said. “We are incredibly blessed to have the highest caliber researchers at TGen, working to unlock the secrets of melanoma, and perhaps one day find a cure to this, the most deadly form skin cancer.”

On average, 1 in 5 Americans will get some form of skin cancer. Of those, nearly 76,000 each year are diagnosed with melanoma. Every hour, on average, someone in the U.S. dies from this disease. The incidence of death from melanoma has nearly doubled in recent decades among young men, and nearly tripled among young women.

About half of all melanomas have changes in part of the cancer DNA called the BRAF gene, allowing the cancer cells to grow out of control. In recent years, new drugs that target BRAF have been shown to have significant clinical benefit for this 50 percent of melanoma patients.

But, what about the other 50 percent of melanoma patients; those without the BRAF mutation? The SU2C Melanoma Dream Team — in conjunction with the Melanoma Research Alliance — is pursuing new treatment options for this type of melanoma, which currently has few treatment options.

“TGen is grateful to the Diamondbacks and Major League Baseball for their ongoing support of SU2C/MRA and for bringing awareness to melanoma research” said Dr. Trent. “Our Melanoma Dream Team is accelerating research into how we can match the right drug to the right patient by close examination of an individual patient’s DNA. Importantly, our FDA approved SU2C melanoma clinical trial is about to open, proving once again that local research benefits local patients first.”

SU2C’s Melanoma Dream Team is co-led by Dr. Trent and by Dr. Patricia LoRusso of the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.

Progress can’t come fast enough for patients and their families, such as Claudia Dulude of Phoenix, who founded the Jeff Dulude Melanoma Foundation after her husband, who passed away 21 years ago from melanoma.

“Three weeks before my husband, Jeff Dulude, died of melanoma at age 36, he said to me, ‘Do something about this, so another family does not go through this pain.’ It took a few years after Jeff’s tragic death, but here I am with our children, Alexandra and Richard, to get the job done,” said Dulude, who now works as a volunteer for the Melanoma Research Alliance.

“Skin cancer, and its deadliest form, melanoma, are preventable cancers, just like smoking is to lung cancer. An hour in the sun unprotected is like smoking a pack of cigarettes,” said Dulude, who is devoted to bringing together the efforts of more than two dozen family foundations, many named for loved ones who succumbed to this disease.

During May — Melanoma Awareness Month — advocates encourage everyone to be aware of time spent in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. They urge the use of proper sunscreen, protective clothing and hats, especially during the upcoming summer and the increased opportunities for outdoor activities — and enjoy the shade and maybe a baseball game in a covered stadium, such as Chase Field.