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

Volume 27 | October 2017

Edited By: Marie Webster, Ph.D. & Ken Dutton-Regester, Ph.D.

SMR in Brisbane, Australia!

G'day to fellow SMR Members traveling to the 9th World Congress of Melanoma and 14th International Congress of the Society for Melanoma Research!

Click here to visit the congress website

First Social Bike Ride at the SMR Congress in Brisbane

Anyone keen to spin some wheels at the upcoming SMR Congress in Brisbane? We have a small group, both locals and internationals, who will be doing a casual cycle around Brisbane, most likely a river loop or a ride up Mt Cootha (short and hard climb, but worth the view). Details have yet to be finalized, but will likely be at casual pace in a group and last from 2-3 hours. We have a local bike shop that organize bike hire, Bianchi road bikes either Alloy ($50) or Carbon ($75), and can have them delivered to your hotel the night before the ride. If you're interested, send Ken an email at ken.dutton-regester@qimrberghofer.edu.au

Meet the New Investigator: Dr. Rizwan Haq

Written by: Marie R. Webster

This section is intended to introduce scientists who have recently started their own lab, to highlight new research in the field and promote collaborations with young investigators.

Dr. Rizwan Haq is a physician-scientist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Rizwan Haq obtained his B.Sc., M.D., and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and the Ontario Cancer Center Institute with honors. During his graduate studies, he identified protein kinase signaling pathways which affect cell proliferation and senescence. In particular, he helped to identify NKIATRE, a cyclin-dependent-kinase 2-related kinase, as a gene that is recurrently dysregulated in leukemia. Dr. Haq underwent his internal medicine training in the Osler House staff Training Program at Johns Hopkins Hospital, followed by fellowship training in oncology at Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Care. Following the completion of his clinical training, Dr. Haq became a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. David E. Fisher at Massachusetts General Hospital. During his post-doctoral training, Dr. Haq studied the role of MITF in melanomagenesis and therapy resistance. He also helped to develop an approach to regulate skin pigmentation and to identify compounds that modulate pigmentation. While pursuing his postdoctoral research, Dr. Haq worked as an Instructor and Assistant Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2014, Dr. Haq moved to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as a principal investigator.

In 2016, Dr. Haq became an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School where his lab works toward understanding mechanisms of therapy resistance. Specifically, his lab studies the pathways involved in resistance to BRAFV600E targeted therapy and to immunotherapies. He has developed the concept of adaptive metabolic resistance to BRAF inhibitors, which proposes that BRAF inhibitors induce pathways which promote survival as well as cell death. In studying pathways involved in adaptive resistance, he has identified a novel modulator of resistance, which may be a valuable therapeutic target in multiple types of cancer. By understanding these pathways, Dr. Haq hopes to identify new therapeutic targets and generate new strategies for combination therapy.

How did you decide that you want to be a physician scientist?

I have always had a passion for science and discovery, however I credit my undergraduate institution, the University of Toronto, and several important mentors with solidifying my career path. In college, I remember walking past the Banting and Best Institute, named (of course) for the discoverers of insulin, thinking what a profound contribution those physician-scientists had made to humanity. During summers and between classes, I worked with scientists at nearby hospitals, who inspired me with their profound curiosity and enthusiasm for scientific pursuit. The powerful influence of these incredible mentors and institutions shaped and honed me into the physician-scientist I am today.

What was your greatest inspiration or challenge during your research/medical training?

The biggest challenge in becoming a physician-scientist is overcoming the false perception that one cannot be both an excellent scientist and an excellent physician. Even after graduate school, residency, fellowship, and post-doctoral training, I still hear this comment from time to time. Of course the balance can be challenging. But in my view, a physician-scientist uniquely understands both the limits of clinical knowledge and the scientific tools that could push the boundaries of this knowledge. Out of this frustration with the status quo is the beginning of a line of investigation that hopefully bridges the gap between basic science and clinical medicine. The scientific and clinical work, therefore, feed on each other.

SMR Member News

Congratulations to Dr. Liz Patton, Dr. Richard White and Dr. Ryan Sullivan, the three newest additions to the SMR steering committee! Each committee member will serve a three year term starting at the 2017 Congress in Brisbane.

Congratulations to Dr. Marianne Berwick (Distinguished Professor of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of New Mexico), Dr. Meg Gerstenblith (Case Western Reserve University), Dr. Jeffrey E. Lee (University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center), Dr. Graham J. Mann (The University of Sydney), Dr. Iman Osman (New York University School of Medicine), Dr. Nancy Thomas (The University of North Carolina), and colleagues who were recently awarded a P01 in June entitled “Integration of Clinical and Molecular Biomarkers for Melanoma”.

Congratulations to J. Wiliam Harbour, MD, Vice Chairman at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and Associate Director at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami, was recently awarded a 5-year NCI R01 grant entitled “Molecular predictive testing in uveal melanoma”. The project involves a 30-center prospective trial to study the diagnostic and prognostic value of new genomic markers and driver mutations in uveal melanoma.

We want to hear from you! Please let us know if you or someone you know has received a grant, award, or promotion. We would like to share the news with the melanoma research community.

Funding Opportunities

1. The Melanoma Research Alliance

The Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) announces a Request for Proposals (RFP) soliciting high-impact pre-clinical, translational, and early clinical research from scientists and clinicians around the world. The RFP calls for ideas that have the potential to lead to near-term clinical application in melanoma prevention, detection, diagnosis, staging, and treatment.

Proposals will be accepted for Young Investigator Awards, Team Science Awards, and Academic-Industry Partnership Awards (for Established Investigators). Please note that two Special Opportunities are available:

  • Special Opportunity Women in Scientific Research Young Investigator Award
  • Rising Tide Foundation for Clinical Cancer Research (RTFCCR)-MRA Team Science Award for European-led Teams

October 6, 2017: Deadline for Team Science Award Letters of Intent including the RTFCCR-MRA European-led Team Science Award

November 17, 2017: Deadline for Young Investigator Award and Academic Industry-Partnership Award proposals

January 9, 2018: Deadline for meritorious Team Science Award full-length proposals

Full descriptions of each award opportunity offered, including the just-announced Special Opportunity Award for European-led Teams, as well as eligibility criteria and instructions can be found here.

2. Melanoma Research Foundation

Melanoma Research Foundation is currently accepting applications for the 2018 Medical Student Research Award, a research grant supporting medical students early in their careers conducting clinical or laboratory-based melanoma research. Eligible areas of research can include the prevention, biology or treatment of melanoma and may focus on the study of cutaneous, ocular, mucosal or pediatric melanoma.

Applications will be accepted from September 1 - November 1, 2017. Applications must be submitted electronically to the Program Director at research@melanoma.org. Interested applicants should download the Request for Proposal (RFP) as well as the 2018 Medical Student Grant Application, making sure to include all required materials when submitting the application.

Questions regarding the 2018 Medical Student Research Award or the MRF Research Grant program can be directed to the Program Director at research@melanoma.org or (800) 673-1290.


Posting 1: The VIB-KULeuven Center for Cancer Biology (CCB)

The VIB-KULeuven Center for Cancer Biology (CCB), located on the Campus Gasthuisberg of the University of Leuven, contributes to the better understanding of the biology that underlies cancer initiation, progression and metastatic dissemination with the ultimate goal to develop more effective and specific anti-cancer (combination) therapies.

We are currently seeking a highly motivated group leader with expertise and outstanding track record in cancer immunology with a preferable focus on the adaptive immune system and interest to implement novel immunotherapeutic strategies. The candidate will introduce cutting-edge technologies and experimental model systems in the field of immunooncology at VIB-KU Leuven. The candidate will be expected to develop ground-breaking scientific programs addressing fundamental research questions and should be interested in seeking opportunities to translate her/his findings into potential industrial applications and/or clinical benefit for patients. The candidate needs to hold a PhD and provide a record of scientific excellence through high profile publications and acquisition of competitive funding. A collaborative and interdisciplinary mindset and experience in coaching and mentoring are highly valued assets.


  • A challenging position in a supportive and international research environment with committed peers (this includes a mentoring program and a Group Leader coaching track)
  • An employment package that is attractive internationally and that is independent of research funding and grants. Substantial core research funding (€1.25M to €1.5M), renewable every 5 years. Access to top-notch core facilities including single cell genomics and bioinformatics, metabolomics, next generation sequencing, mouse genomic engineering and animal housing, histopathology, light and electron microscopy, FACS. Collaborative atmosphere with clinicians from the University Hospital UZ Leuven located on the same campus. Assistance with daily life issues such as relocation including visa application (if necessary), move & housing, school & day care VIB is an equal opportunity employer promoting an inclusive environment in which everyone is respected.

Start date: in the course of 2018


Please use the VIB HR application tool to upload the required documents: motivation letter, full CV, a two page statement of your past achievements and future research plan, list of publications and contact details of 4 referees. Deadline to apply: October 15, 2017.

Suitable applicants will be invited to CCB to present a seminar on their achievements and future research. The visit will also include interviews with group leaders of CCB and KU Leuven as well as with VIB and KU Leuven key people.


Posting 2: Postdoctoral fellowship

Postdoctoral fellowship: University of Colorado Department of Dermatology and Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine, School of Medicine

The laboratory of Dr. Neil Box within the Department of Dermatology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is seeking a postdoctoral fellow to investigate the role of the tumor suppressor p53 in mouse development and pigmentation using molecular and cellular biology techniques including:

  • PCR, qPCR, RNA work
  • Western blotting, ELISA and flow cytometry
  • Immunohistochemistry (IHC)/immunofluorescence (IF), and brightfield/fluorescence microscopy
  • Some bioinformatics analysis for RNAseq and other NGS applications
  • Mammalian cell culture techniques
  • General molecular biology
  • Management of mouse colony, genetics, necropsy, drug treatment and surgeries such as grafting.

Dr. Neil Box’s laboratory is studying the interactions between genes and ultraviolet (UV) radiation that influence melanoma risk. Specifically, we are interested in the shared molecular mechanisms that regulate tanning and melanoma promotion using both mouse models and human subjects.

Minimum Requirements: PhD or MD/PhD in Biology or related field, excellent communication skills using the English language, ability to work independently and in a team setting within the research lab, and ability to handle and process detail-oriented documentation and meet designated research deadlines. Applicants who are US citizens or permanent resident may be eligible for an NIH funded T32 training grant position. We strongly encourage minority candidates to apply.

Please contact Dr. Neil Box directly if interested. Email: Neil.Box@ucdenver.edu, phone: 1-303-724-0710.

Melanoma Meetings Around the World

  • MASCC/ISOO 2018 Annual Meeting on Supportive Care in Cancer, June 28-30, Vienna, Austria
  • Melanoma 2018: 28th Annual Cutaneous Malignancy Update, January 20-21, 2018, San Diego, CA
  • Society for Melanoma Research November 2018, tba

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