UPCI Researchers Awarded Grants from Melanoma Research Alliance to Help Advance Treatment for Fast-Growing Skin Cancer

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Relations

05/10/2013

Two researchers with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute have been awarded research grants by the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA). Hussein Tawbi, M.D., Ph.D., and Hassane M. Zarour, M.D., were two of 49 researchers at leading academic research institutions around the world to share in over $9.6 million in MRA grants to develop improved means to prevent, detect and treat melanoma, one of the fastest growing cancers.

Dr. Tawbi is one of three principal investigators awarded the Team Science Award to continue their study of the safety and efficacy of the selective BRAF inhibitor drabafenib in melanoma patients with brain metastases. Dr. Tawbi and researchers from University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Melanoma Institute Australia will receive $900,000 over three years from the MRA.

Dr. Zarour received an Academic Industry Award for his study looking at therapy with anti-PD-1 antibody and Peginterferon alpha-2b for melanoma. He will receive $786,000 over three years from both Merck and MRA.

This latest round of awards brings the total awarded by MRA in its six-year history to almost $48 million, provided to 169 investigators at 80 institutions in 13 countries. MRA directs 100 percent of all public donations it receives to research.

“The disturbing increase in incidence of melanoma, especially among young people, lends even greater urgency to finding new tools and treatments for a disease that every year is diagnosed among almost 80,000 people and is responsible for more than 9,000 deaths in the U.S. alone,” said Wendy K.D. Selig, president and chief executive officer of MRA. “We are inspired by the exciting progress that is finally occurring in the field and delighted by the exceptional caliber of proposals, investigators and institutions we are able to support through our 2013 grants.”

Dr. Tawbi is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Zarour is an associate professor of medicine and immunology in the Department of Medicine and UPCI. Both are members of the SPORE-funded Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program at UPCI.