Physicians, researchers and patient advocates have launched an initiative to advance melanoma research and improve care for patients with melanoma following a meeting March 23-24 at the University of Iowa.
The new Midwest Melanoma Partnership draws on resources from 15 midwest cancer centers, who together serve more than 4,000 patients with advanced melanoma. The partnership aims to improve the diagnosis, treatment and long-term care of patients with malignant melanoma.
Svetomir Markovic, MD, PhD, professor of oncology and medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., chairs the Midwest Melanoma Partnership, and Mohammed Milhem, MD, associate professor of internal medicine with UI Health Care is vice-chair.
"We believe that this multi-institutional partnership will create a clinical research infrastructure that will allow us to be more efficient in developing and testing meaningful therapeutic options for patients with melanoma," Markovic says.
Melanoma in its advanced stages is a deadly disease; patients often survive less than one year after diagnosis.
Recent developments have led to FDA approval of several new drugs that have been shown to improve survival. Although these new drugs represent the first real advance in therapy for this disease in several decades, it already is clear that effective long-term treatments will require combinations of therapies to slow or stop the growth of this cancer.
One goal of the partnership will be to develop and conduct early stage clinical trials to test combination therapies. These trials will use the latest scientific understanding of how melanoma behaves to target biological pathways that the cancer needs to survive.
"With this partnership, we plan to build a team of experts that will bring state-of-the-art research, clinical trials, and cancer care to the more than 4,000 patients we serve who have a diagnosis of advanced melanoma," Milhem says.
A coordination center located at Mayo will provide additional support for the partnership, including administrative services, assistance with collecting biospecimens, centralized laboratory, pathology and radiology resources, and operational support for clinical trials.
Another key component of the partnership will be the participation of patient advocates at each site who will bring the patients' perspective and voice to the partnership's research agenda.
"We value the opportunity to collaborate," says George Weiner, MD, director of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI. "We can do more together than we can individually."