The Society for Melanoma Research Newsletter Published By: The Society for Melanoma Research

Volume 36 | April 2021

Edited by: Claire Hardie

Letter from the SMR President

SMR President, Ashi Weeraratna, PhD

Dear SMR members,

I write this to you as the one-year anniversary of the pandemic looms over us all. What a year it has been! For many of us, it was a year of great personal loss and professional struggles, and for all of us it has been a year of friends and family kept too far afield. In 2021 alone, we have lost two special people on our field- Dr. Michael Weber, and Dr. Shyam (Rajasekheran) Somasundarum. Shyam was a Research Assistant Professor who worked with Dorothee and Meenhard Herlyn at the Wistar for decades, and ran the immunology components of the lab. Shortly before he passed, he published a Nature Communications paper showing the importance of mast cells as key arbitrators of resistance to anti-PD1. I know many of you in the community knew and loved Shyam, as I did. His loss is keenly and deeply felt.

Dr. Weber was a giant in our field. He spent the last almost four decades of his career at the University of Virginia cancer center, of which he was Cancer Center Director for many years, and which he helped achieve designation as a National Cancer Center from the National Cancer Institute. Mike had a huge respect for basic science, saying in an interview once “If there’s going to be a quantum leap in cancer treatment, it has to be based on understanding the basic ‘look’ of cancer cells.” My own interactions with Mike are ones I will always treasure, from great discussions of science, to family and career advice.

But as we mourn the loss of colleagues, we must also remember to carry on their legacy. I remain so proud of this society, and all of the amazing work you are all doing. In 2020 alone, and the first couple of months of 2021, our researchers, including our young investigators like Hunter Shain, have published papers in top tier journals, such Nature, Science and Cell, to name just a few, and have published equally impactful papers in many other journals as well. We have also come together as a community to publish opionion and resource papers. One example is a culmination of a workshop held at our last in person meeting, and is a white paper on critical issues emerging in our field (Atkins MB, et al. The State of Melanoma: Emergent Challenges and Opportunities. Clin Cancer Res. 2021, PMID: 33414132)

Another such resource paper also arose from a meeting of many SMR members at the 2020 Melanoma Research Alliance, the last meeting many of us attended before shutdown. This resulted in a paper on effective and useful models for melanoma, which we hope will help your research (Patton EE, et al. Melanoma models for the next generation of therapies. Cancer Cell. 2021, PMID: 33545064)

It is amazing how bringing our SMR scientists together can produce such great output!

And so, the looming question in many of your minds is likely when will we come together again? Well, given the vaccine rollouts, we are optimistically moving ahead with our plans for our fall meeting, in person, but with virtual options for those who cannot come. It will take some orchestration, but with our amazing Site Solutions team, and stellar organizing committee, we are confident that we will be able to pull off a wonderful meeting in the always fun New Orleans. And next year, we will be moving to Edinburgh for the 2022 meeting, which I hope will be fully in person.

In the meantime, I wish you all health, happiness and lots of time with family and friends- the world is starting to open up again, and I, for one, can’t wait to catch up on missed hugs, and conversations, and getting back to doing science at full steam!

Be well, be happy and do great science- but please, make time for yourselves during this challenging period.


- Ashi

18th International Congress of the Society for Melanoma Research

October 28 – 31, 2021, New Orleans

We are excited for the planned meeting of the SMR in October in New Orleans. Please save the date! We realize that travel may still be difficult for many of our members so our current plan is to hold a hybrid event to give access to as many individuals as we can. The committee is monitoring the situation and will make adjustments as needed. We will announce the abstract submission dates over the coming weeks. Please download the SMR Community app or check the SMR Congress website https://smrcongress.org/ for information as it becomes available.

Other Melanoma Related Meetings

10th World Congress of Melanoma/17TH EADO Congress 2021

31st German Skin Cancer Congress


Each year the Society for Melanoma Research recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of our members by celebrating with several annual achievement awards given at the SMR International Congress:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Estela Medrano Memorial Award
  • Young Investigator Award
  • Christopher J. Marshall Award

Each of these winners will be invited to give a presentation at the SMR congress planned for Fall of 2021 in New Orleans, and honoured at the awards ceremony.

To review all past recipients and to submit a nomination please visit the Society for Melanoma Research website. https://www.societymelanomaresearch.org/awards. Nominations are accepted year-round with the submission deadline for this year’s awards to coincide with the yet to be announced abstract submission date.

Here is additional information on each of these awards.

Lifetime Achievement Award – This award is presented to an individual who has made major and impactful contributions to melanoma research throughout their career. Established in 2009, recent years have recognised Keith Flaherty, Neal Rosen and Julia Newton Bishop for their incredible achievements.

Estela Medrano Memorial Award - This award was established in 2010 in memory of Estela Medrano. Estela was a leader in the study of TGFb-related signalling in melanoma as well as senescence. She was also an active participant in SMR activities and was about to become the new secretary/treasurer for SMR. Estela was tragically killed in an automobile accident in August 2010. Although originally given to the keynote lecturer at the Society for Melanoma Research annual international congress, in 2013, an ad hoc review committee recommended that specific consideration be given to a woman who has made major contributions in the fight against melanoma to fully honour Estela's memory.

Young Investigator Award - This award is presented to an individual who is an independent researcher, in the junior stage (typically within first 5 years) of their career and who has made contributions in the area of melanoma research that significantly exceed the average for this career stage.

Christopher J. Marshall Award - Established in 2015 at the SMR congress in San Francisco, the Society for Melanoma Research in partnership with the Melanoma Research Foundation Congress established The Christopher J. Marshall Award for Studies on Signal Transduction and Melanoma. This award is presented to a student who has made substantial published and original contribution to studies of signal transduction and melanoma within the previous two years. The award’s focus on students, fellows or new PIs is in keeping with Chris Marshall’s dedication to mentoring and training new generations of cancer scientists.

In order to be sure that all worthy individuals are given consideration for these awards we encourage all members to submit nominations of your colleagues and peers. Individuals with multiple nominations are much more likely to be recognized.

2020 Award Winners

Yardena Samuels, PhD – 2020 Estela Medrano Memorial Award
Stefani Spranger, PhD – 2020 Young Investigator Award

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Melanoma News

New Roles

Please join us in congratulating our members in their new positions.

Congratulations to Jose Orgaz, PhD, Principle Investigator at the Cytoskeleton and Metastasis Lab, Madrid, Spain. Dr Orgaz has started a new line of independent research (Cytoskeleton and Metastasis Lab) at Instituto de Investigaciones Biomedicas Alberto Sols CSIC-UAM (Biomedical Research Institute Alberto Sols) in Madrid (Spain), with an Atracción de Talento Senior Fellowship from Comunidad de Madrid, Spain in September 2020.

Congratulations to James Grichnik, MD PhD, on his new position as Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology & Cutaneous Surgery, University of South Florida. His team will be providing services at USF/Tampa General Hospital, Moffitt, and the James Haley VA.

Congratulations to Mitchell Stark, PhD, who has been recently promoted to Senior Research Fellow (A/Prof in US) at The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, Brisbane, Australia. His new lab name is the “Skin Cancer Genomics and Biomarker Discovery Group”

Also of note, congratulations to Anja Boßerhoff, SMR Treasurer and Head of the Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, Institute of Biochemistry, who was elected as the new Chair of the Scientific Commission of the German council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat) in January 2021. Professor Boßerhoff holds the Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat, where her research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of malignant melanoma.

Job Opportunities

Position: Postdoctoral fellow

Location: Moffit Cancer Centre, Tampa, Florida, USA

We are recruiting postdoctoral fellows interested in developing novel spatial transcriptomic and metabolomic techniques for the study of melanoma metastasis and immunotherapy responses of aggressive skin cancers. The posting is based at the Moffitt Cancer Centre, Tampa, Florida and is a prestigious NCI supported training programme. Please see the below link for further information and application details.


Candidates should e-mail the following documents to inna.smalley@moffitt.org and kenneth.tsai@moffitt.org

  • 1) A cover letter that describes their motivation to pursue this position, why they would be the perfect fit for these projects and summarizes past research accomplishments. They should also include a summary of what expectations/goals they have for this fellowship.
  • 2) A current CV with recent publications and contact information for three references.

Position: Postdoctoral fellow/staff scientist

Location: University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Miami, Florida, USA

We are recruiting a post-doctoral fellow or staff scientist with a strong background in bulk and single-cell genomics and bioinformatics to join our uveal melanoma program at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Please see link below for further details and how to apply.


Position: Postdoctoral fellow

Location: Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

The university of Utah in Salt Lake City has an opening for a highly motivated post-doctoral fellow to join the laboratory of Dr Sheri Holmen at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The Holmen lab is interested in study the mechanisms of melanoma brain metastasis with an emphasis on identifying targets for clinical translation. Current projects focus on the AKT pathway and downstream effectors that mediate this process. (Related publications: Cho et al. Cell Reports 2015; Kircher et al, Molecular Cancer Research 2019). Candidates should have recently received a Ph.D. (or equivalent) degree or be close to obtaining their doctoral degree with experience in cancer biology. Experience in melanoma, molecular and cellular biology and mouse genetics is preferred.

For more information about the Holmen lab visit our website at https://uofuhealth.utah.eud/huntsman/labs/holmen

Interested applicants should submit a cover letter, curricular vitae, and a list of three references to Dr Sheri Holmen via e-mail at sheri.holmen@hci.utah.edu

Position: Postdoctoral researchers

Location: The Rebecca Lab, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

The Rebecca Lab @Johns Hopkins University is recruiting postdoctoral researchers interested in developing novel transcriptomic and proteomic techniques for the study of melanoma metastases and therapy resistance of aggressive skin cancers. Candidates will collaborate closely with another investigator in the Quantitative Sciences Research Program to develop and apply innovative quantitative methods for analysis of spatial transcriptomic and proteomic techniques to their work. They will also interact with a team of bioinformaticians, tumor biologists, immunologists and clinicians at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the Sydney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center to conduct research in a highly collaborative and scientifically stimulating environment. Ideal candidates have demonstrated expertise in signal transduction, drug resistance, metastasis, functional genomics and/or single-cell analysis studies.

Position Highlights

  • Studying the functionality of tumor heterogeneity
  • Developing cutting edge techniques for spatial RNAseq and proteomics
  • In addition to the research, the position will have a focus on career development including grant writing, scientific writing/presentation, mentorship of junior members of the lab, networking, and building collaborations.
  • Co-mentorship by two NCI-funded investigators in a collaborative environment as part of a unique multidisciplinary training program bridging molecular biology and bioinformatics.

How to apply:

  • Candidates should e-mail the following documents to vrebecc2@jh.edu
  • 1) A cover letter that describes their motivation to pursue this position, why they would be the perfect fit for these projects and summarizes past research accomplishments. They should also include a summary of what expectations/goals they have for this fellowship.
  • 2) A current CV with recent publications and contact information

New Mobile App for the SMR Community

The NEW SMR Communities Mobile App is now available to download!

This new app exclusive to SMR members offers the ability to network with other members, browse employment opportunities and stay up to date on melanoma related news right from your phone. Download our official app by visiting the Apple Store or Google Play and search "SMR Community"


As we work together to remain connected as a community please remember to use this newsletter as a means of sharing important information with your colleagues.

If you have information that you would like to share with our members, please email info@societyformelanomaresearch.org.

Stay safe! We hope you will join us for the SMR Congress in October 2021. We will provide additional information as it becomes available on the SMR website in the SMR Community app and in future editions of the SMR newsletter.