Colo. (February 12, 2014) – A research project at the University of Colorado
School of Medicine that aims for more targeted therapies for melanoma—made
possible by a $5 million anonymous gift—will be led by William Robinson, MD,
PhD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Oncology.
this five-year research project, which begins this winter, investigators will
undertake next-generation DNA sequencing of up to 3,000 tissue and blood cell
samples housed at a melanoma biorepository on the Anschutz Medical Campus.
Previous work in this area has centered on a small number of genes involved in
the development and treatment of melanoma. This technique will allow these
investigators to examine all 20,000 genes in each cancer.
DNA sequencing will illuminate the gene profiles of each cancer case and help
researchers discern individual patterns in molecular makeup, which will allow
them to develop specific “targeted” treatments. Aided by bioinformatics
expertise on the Anschutz Medical Campus and School of Medicine dermatologists,
surgeons and molecular biologists, researchers can use the molecular
information to select new therapies tailored toward an individual’s genetic
makeup. The results of this study will be made freely available to other scientists
around the world.
is a potentially lethal cancer that until recently had no effective therapy
once it spread beyond the skin.
Anschutz Medical Campus houses one of the world’s largest melanoma
biorepositories, with extensive clinical information underlying each of these
biosamples. CU’s state-of-the-art health sciences facilities, most of which
were built during the past decade, and breadth of basic and clinical research
expertise add to the project’s outstanding potential for success.
donor’s $5 million gift is expected to have a multiplier effect as follow-up
projects are likely to attract further grants, additional private support and
perhaps ultimately will lead to patents or spinoff businesses that could garner
gift highlights the prowess and potential of cancer research on the Anschutz
Medical Campus. The University of Colorado Cancer Center is one of 41
comprehensive cancer centers in the United States designated by the National
Cancer Institute, and one of 23 members of the National Comprehensive Cancer
Network, which recommends the guidelines followed by cancer-care providers.
has become the poster child for the development of new molecularly targeted
therapies, due to the rapid advances that have been made recently in melanoma
research,” said Dr. Robinson, a CU School of Medicine alumnus. “The information
gained here will be made available to other research scientists around the
world and will impact not only our understanding and treatment of melanoma, but
other cancers as well.”
impact of this research is particularly relevant for residents of Colorado,
where ultraviolet light exposure is more intense due to high elevation.
Colorado ranks among the top 10 U.S. states in melanoma mortality rate. But
unlike other high-incidence locales such as Australia, where Dr. Robinson
earned his PhD and where public education campaigns have led to reduced
melanoma incidence, Colorado’s rate has continued to increase.
Robinson said public education in the U.S. about melanoma risk factors must
continue. “A majority of the sun exposure that leads to development of melanoma
occurs during childhood and teenage years,” he said. “It’s not the sun you got
last week. It’s the sun you got when you were young, when your skin is
expanding or growing. Putting the suntan lotion on when you’re 60 is not likely
to prevent you from getting melanoma.”
melanoma is often equated with “skin cancer,” it is different from other skin
cancers such as squamous and basal cell carcinomas that are rarely fatal. The
significant threat from melanoma results from its spread into the bloodstream
and then other parts of the body, which occurs if the cancer is not caught
early. It is this more advanced stage of melanoma, which is often fatal, that
Dr. Robinson’s research aims to tackle.
at the University of Colorado School of Medicine advance science and improve
care. These faculty members include physicians, educators and scientists at
University of Colorado Hospital, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Denver Health,
National Jewish Health, and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The
school is located on the Anschutz Medical
one of four campuses in the University of Colorado system. To learn more about the
School of Medicine, visit its website and look for it