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Sosman to lead national melanoma research team

Dec. 12, 2013, 9:49 AM

Jeffrey Sosman, M.D., professor of Medicine and leader of the Vanderbilt Melanoma Program, will head one of two teams of researchers at prominent national institutions investigating acral melanoma, a skin cancer that typically forms on the hands, soles of the feet or under the fingernails.

Jeffrey Sosman, M.D.

The two Team Science Awards are funded through a $1 million grant jointly awarded by the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) and the Hidary Foundation.

Sosman will lead a team of researchers at Vanderbilt, along with colleagues from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and the nonprofit Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Phoenix.

Vanderbilt co-investigators include Mark Kelley, M.D., MMHC, Kimberly Brown Dahlman, Ph.D., and Douglas Johnson, M.D.

The second team, led by Maryam Asgari, M.D., MPH, Kaiser Permanente Research Institute, Oakland, Calif., includes investigators from the University of California San Francisco.
Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer and acral melanoma is a subtype of the disease that has a 10 to 20 percent lower survival rate than other forms of melanoma.

Using new technologies like genomic sequencing, the studies will investigate the genetic changes that drive the development and growth of acral melanoma. The cost of whole gene sequencing has been dropping, making studies like this more cost effective.

“In the past few years, we have been making progress in new therapies for melanoma patients, but we still know very little about the origins and drivers of acral melanoma,” said Sosman, Ingram Chair for Cancer Research. “This team science initiative will enable us to work collaboratively with other leading melanoma investigators to pool our knowledge and accelerate the pace of scientific discoveries.”

Sosman has been named the first Mary Hendrickson-Johnson ACS Melanoma Professor for his commitment and effort to bring translational medicine to melanoma therapy. He is also co-leader of the Cell Proliferation and Signal Transduction Program at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

The Melanoma Research Alliance is a public charity formed in 2007 under the auspices of the Milken Institute, with additional funding support from Debra and Leon Black. To date, the alliance has supported the research of 171 investigators at 80 institutions around the world.

The Hidary Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the organization led by technology entrepreneur Jack Hidary and his family. The foundation promotes innovative K-12 educational programs, especially those focusing on science and technology, as well as cancer research using emerging tools such as genomic sequencing.

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