Andrew Aplin, PhD, Associate Director of Basic Research and Program Leader of Cancer Cell Biology & Signaling at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC) at Jefferson Health, Kalbach-Newton Professor in Cancer Research at Thomas Jefferson University, and Department of Ophthalmology at Wills Eye Institute, and Marlana Orloff, MD, Assistant Professor of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University, have been awarded the Helman Family-MRA Team Science Award from the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA).
The multi-institutional team comprises Drs. Aplin and Orloff, Emily Bernstein, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncological Sciences and Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and J. William Harbour, MD, Associate Director for Basic Research at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and Director of Ocular Oncology, Vice Chairman for Translational Research and Mark J. Daily Chair in Ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami.
Their research project is titled, “Targeting BAP1-dependent alterations in metastatic uveal melanoma,” with the goal of understanding how BAP1 mutations contribute to metastatic uveal melanoma. It was previously discovered that the more aggressive (metastatic) forms of uveal melanoma are associated with alterations (mutations) within a gene known as BAP1. How mutations in BAP1 contribute to the metastasis of uveal melanoma and how mutant BAP1 tumors can be targeted effectively with drugs, however, remains unsolved.
The team will be taking an integrated approach to understand how loss of BAP1 drives uveal melanoma cells toward a more aggressive state and will take unbiased and innovative approaches to understand how BAP1 mutations allow uveal melanoma cells to cope with stressful environments upon metastasis and identify novel drug targets for BAP1 mutant uveal melanoma. The three collaborating institutions provide access to unique uveal melanoma resources, large patient populations and the genomic technologies required to successfully achieve the proposed studies. Upon completion of the grant, the team expects to have identified the basis for new therapeutic strategies for metastatic uveal melanoma.
The Helman Family-MRA Team Science Award is one of 13 team science and 15 young investigator grants totaling $11.8 million. Scientific proposals were reviewed and selected by the MRA grant review committee.
For more information on the grants, please visit the Melanoma Research Alliance website here.