Progress Update

When children follow the exciting superhero-inspired adventures of “Ray and the Sunbeatables,” learning how to protect themselves from dangerous ultraviolet radiation exposure is easy — and fun! In a new initiative by the Melanoma Moon Shot, MD Anderson recently partnered with the CATCH Global Foundation to bring sun protection education to the nation’s children. Through CATCH, the program is already in approximately 300 classrooms across the nation.

CATCH®, short for Coordinated Approach to Child Health, is a program developed and disseminated by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health. It’s already in place in more than 10,000 educational settings across the U.S. MD Anderson behavioral scientists led by Mary Tripp, Ph.D., M.P.H., Susan Peterson, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Ellen Gritz, Ph.D., have created an evidence-based sun protection program with a fun and engaging curriculum that targets students in preschool classrooms.

Now the program is being expanded for the 2017 school year! Curriculum is under development for kindergarten through first-grade students so Ray and his friends can teach even more kids the importance of sun safety.

Find out more about the CATCH partnership and the curriculum for sun protection.


Progress Update

Three Clinical Trials Testing Novel Approaches

Surgery is still the best treatment option for people with early-stage melanoma. Unfortunately for some, their cancers will come back, either in the same area or elsewhere in the body. Systemic therapies are often given after surgery for those with a greater risk for cancer recurrence. Now the Melanoma Moon Shot team is asking what would happen if therapy began prior to surgery?

Known as neoadjuvant therapy, systemic treatment prior to surgery is often an option for some other cancers, such as breast, in early stages but was not available for melanoma patients until recently because of the lack of treatments with favorable response rates. Due to the development of more effective therapies, the Melanoma Moon Shot has opened two exciting neoadjuvant clinical trials — co-led by Jennifer Wargo, M.D., and Rodabe Amaria, M.D. — and has begun enrolling patients.

The first study is a randomized clinical trial and enrolls one-third of patients on standard surgical treatment (i.e., surgery first). Two-thirds of the patients are given a combination therapy (dabrafenib and trametinib) prior to surgery. The two groups will be compared to see if the neoadjuvant combination therapy improves outcomes over the standard of care.

The second clinical trial tests neoadjuvant immunotherapies. Patients are randomized to either a single agent pre-surgical regimen of nivolumab or a pre-surgical combination therapy of nivoumab and ipilimumab.

In the advanced-stage melanoma setting, therapeutic approaches for patients who have failed prior approved treatments are critically needed. For this purpose, a third trial, also led by Dr. Amaria, teams adaptive T-cell therapy (a process where native immune system cells are collected from the patient’s tumor, multiplied in the laboratory up to 150 billion cells, and then re-infused to the patient) with an immune checkpoint blockade. The hope is that the therapies will work together and garner better results.

As part of our Melanoma Moon Shot, our team of clinicians and scientists work together to study blood and tumors that are collected from patients on these trials. These research studies improve our understanding of the disease by uncovering the mechanisms of response and resistance, potentially gaining insight that would allow us to predict the future patients who will benefit from each of these treatments and to develop new therapies that are even more effective.

Overall, these exciting clinical trials have the chance to set a new paradigm for the treatment of many melanoma patients and to lead to more effective, personalized treatments for this disease.


About Melanoma

Focused on patients

MD Anderson is home to one of the largest melanoma and skin cancer clinics in the world. This has led to a nearly unrivaled level of expertise. Learn more about how MD Anderson’s Melanoma Moon Shot is Making Cancer History®.

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Research Update
Melanoma Moon Shot leaders; Melanoma research projects; (left to right): Michael Davies, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Melanoma Medical Oncology; Jeffrey E. Gershenwald, M.D., Professor, Surgical Oncology

MD Anderson’s multidisciplinary team of experts translates discoveries made in the laboratory to new hope for patients in the clinic.

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MD Anderson and the Moon Shots Program
Making Cancer History®

New knowledge and progress-enabling technologies make this the time to reduce cancer deaths. MD Anderson's comprehensive Moon Shots Program capitalizes on these novel resources as it builds on a 70-plus-year history of renowned expertise, lifesaving innovation and global impact.

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Melanoma, Research Update

The Melanoma Moon Shot is developing a coordinated campaign of behavioral interventions targeted to individuals, families, schools, clinics, worksites and communities to reduce melanoma incidence long-term.

Melanoma, Progress Update

In December 2015, the U.S Food and Drug Administration proposed to ban everyone under 18 from using indoor tanning beds, a known cause of skin cancer in the U.S.

The Melanoma Moon Shot team and governmental relations experts were among those who worked with other organizations to achieve a Texas state prohibition on tanning bed use by minors, which took effect in 2013. Since then, the team has consulted with colleagues in other states on how best to educate lawmakers who are considering similar legislation. Because while a federal ban would be powerful, it is still left to the states to regulate compliance. Srong state laws would further strengthen the FDA ban.

Now, with the FDA ban — if made final — the potential to prevent melanoma would become much more significant. Melanoma Moon Shot co-leader Jeffrey E. Gershenwald, M.D., professor of Surgical Oncology, says about this development, “There will now be a national order against using indoor tanning devices for youth around the country. It will no longer be dependent solely on grass-roots state and local initiatives.”

Learn more about this moon shot’s efforts to highlight the dangers of indoor tanning and its impact on teenagers.

Melanoma Moon Shot; Dr. Jeffrey E. Gershenwald with a patient
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Melanoma struck early for Marit Peterson. She was born with the disease. Watch her story.