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

Volume 33 | May 2020

Edited by: Daniela Cerezo Wallis and Rebecca Lee

Letter from the SMR President

SMR President Georgina V Long

I hope you, your loved ones, friends and colleagues are all safe and well. To those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic so far, we stand with you and your country, and are greatly saddened by the toll this pandemic is taking. We fear the same for our own countries.

What has impressed me the most is how the world has come together. This is particularly true for the international community of melanoma researchers and clinicians. Through our networks, we have shared ideas and commenced important projects to understand this virus, to try to reduce its impact on lives and life as we know it and to try to eradicate it altogether.

Despite the restrictions that COVID-19 brings to our everyday lives, we continue to communicate, innovate, and work hard to alleviate the suffering of people with melanoma through our research. As one SMR member stated, “COVID-19 will go, but cancer will stay”. For laboratory researchers, although we may not be able to continue our experiments, this is a great opportunity to extend collaborations around the world, to ensure the research continues. For clinicians, we must be mindful when we deviate from standard management during this time, that there may be long-term consequences to a person with melanoma. It is critical we collect this data to measure the impact of these changes. Importantly, many clinicians are collecting this data right now.

Due to the uncertainty over the next 6-18 months, and the impact COVID-19 has had on travel and institutions, as well as our concern for the safety of all people, the executive committee in consultation with the steering committee have decided to postpone the face to face SMR 2020 conference in New Orleans, USA. We are now planning the New Orleans SMR meeting for 2021.

In the meantime, we are aiming to have a shorter virtual meeting in October 2020. Given the format, we will not be accepting abstracts. We will keep you informed of our plans on the Congress website https://smrcongress.org/.

On behalf of the executive committee we hope you all stay well and continue to work to “alleviate the suffering of people” through research.

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Melanoma News

At home skin checks

Author: Prof Monika Janda,

Institution: Centre for Health Services Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

In this current pandemic outbreak, primary care practitioners (PCPs) are struggling to keep up with the increased presentations of patients with flu-like symptoms. To avoid being infected, people are staying away from PCPs for less urgent health issues and many people are now self-quarantined. In Australia, PCPs are the first point of call for skin cancer checks and primarily providing the vast majority of clinical skin examinations. Delaying a visit to the GP may result in worse prognosis; as early detection is of utmost importance for skin cancer, especially melanoma.

Mobile teledermoscopy may overcome some of these problems. Mobile teledermoscopy is a technology-driven alternative to face-to-face skin checks, where people can utilise their smartphone with or without their own dermatoscope attachment and a corresponding app for convenient use at home. This setting includes lesions self-selected by patients for review or identified by doctors for monitoring between clinical visits.

In our recent randomised controlled trial published in The Lancet Digital Health we compared naked-eye skin self-examination with mobile teledermoscopy. Although we could not show that mobile teledermoscopy could improve the sensitivity of self-examination by 20% or more, our study showed that both groups had overall high level of performance in finding lesions that a dermatologist also thought were worthwhile checking.

Now, more than ever, incorporating mobile teledermoscopy into the direct-to-consumer settings may facilitate melanoma and other skin cancer early detection outcomes and surveillance.

Marisol Soengas receive an ‘ERC Advanced Grant’ from the European Union to tackle melanoma metastasis

Dr. Marisol Soengas, Head of the Melanoma Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), just received one of the most competitive grants from the European Research Council (ERC), the ERC Advanced Grants, to carry out an ambitious project to understand how melanoma metastases arise and how to treat them more efficiently.

Her group will receive 2.5 million euros, the maximum amount stipulated for these grants, to carry out her METALERT-STOP project over the next 5 years. Her project has been selected in a highly competitive process from among almost 1,900 proposals by top-level European researchers, from which only 185 grants were awarded.

Congratulations Dr. Soengas for an outstanding achievement.

Melanoma Research Foundation News

In addition to supporting established investigators and multidisciplinary research teams, the MRF is committed to funding the future of melanoma research by supporting the most promising studies being conducted by medical students early in their careers. Since 2011 and including the recipients below, the MRF has awarded 69 grants to medical students totalling over $200,000! In 2020, the MRF is proud to announce the award of 12 medical student research awards. Please join us in congratulating:

Congratulations to Usman Baqai (Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Mentor: Andrew Aplin) for receiving a 2020 MRF Medical Student Award for his project entitled “BAP1 Dependent Kinome in Uveal Melanoma“.

Congratulations to Samantha Black (UT Southwestern Medical School, Mentor: Keith Argenbright) for receiving the 2020 Looney Legacy Foundation MRF Medical Student Award for her project entitled “Improving Melanoma Screening Education for Primary Care Providers Serving Patients of Skin of Color”.

Congratulations to Umair Khan (Eastern Virginia Medical School, Mentor: Jerry Chipuk) for receiving the 2020 Looney Legacy Foundation MRF Medical Student Award for his project entitled “The Mitochondrial Unfolded Protein Response Predicts the Immune Landscape During Melanoma”.

Congratulations to Jez Marston (Weill Cornell Medicine, Mentor: Douglas Nixon) for receiving the 2020 Silverstein Family MRF Medical Student Award for his project entitled “Human Endogenous Retrovirus Expression Profiles in Acral Melanoma”.

Congratulations to Alexander Mathew (University of Virginia School of Medicine, Mentor: Richard Price) for receiving the 2020 Randy Lomax Memorial MRF Medical Student Award for his project entitled “Leveraging Focused Ultrasound to Sensitize Refractory Melanoma to Immunotherapy”.

Congratulations to Breanna Nguyen (University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Mentor: Daniel Kaplan) for receiving the 2020 Michael Atkins MRF Medical Student Award for her project entitled “Examining the Role of TGFβ Activating Integrins B6 and B8 in Melanoma”.

Congratulations to Brennan Olson (Oregon Health and Science University, Mentor: Daniel Marks) for receiving the 2020 MRF Medical Student Award for her project entitled “The Neuroendocrine Role of Lipcalin 2 in Melanoma Cachexia”.

Congratulations to Victoria Orfaly (Oregon Health and Science University, Mentor: Sancy Leachman) for receiving a 2020 MRF Medical Student Award for her project entitled “Applying Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning to Melanoma Prevention Education in High School Adolescents“.

Congratulations to Megan Trager (Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons, Mentors: Larisa Geskin & Yvonne Saenger) for receiving a 2020 MRF Medical Student Award for her project entitled “Image-Based Deep Learning to Predict Melanoma Recurrence“.

Congratulations to Sarah Wang (University of Virginia School of Medicine, Mentor: Andrew Dudley) for receiving the 2020 Christopher Westdyk MRF Medical Student Award for her project entitled “Mechanisms of Perivascular Dispersal by Brain-Resident Melanoma Cells“.

Congratulations to Kevin Yang (University of Alabama at Birmingham, Mentor: Nabiha Yusuf) for receiving a 2020 MRF Medical Student Award for his project entitled “Therapeutic Intervention of Melanoma“.

Congratulations to Angela Zaladonis (Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Mentor: Jeffrey Farma) for receiving a 2020 MRF Medical Student Award for her project entitled “Immunization Effect in Patients with Multiple Primary Melanomas“.

2020 Abstract Submissions

Due to the change in format from an in person to a virtual meeting for 2020 the Society for Melanoma Research is still discussing if they will be accepting abstracts in some limited capacity for this year’s program. Additional information will be posted on the Congress website as soon as it becomes available. https://smrcongress.org. We will return to the full practice of submitting abstracts for review and scoring for future events.


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. This year with the change in plans for the Congress due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, the Society will be focusing on the following three awards:

  • 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 virtual event planned for Fall of 2020. In addition, they will be honoured alongside the 2021 award winners at the Awards Ceremony to be held in New Orleans in 2021.

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 being September 1, 2020.

Here is additional information on each of these awards.

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.


The Society for Melanoma Research will have elections in September 2020 for two open seats on the Executive Committee as well as several on the Society Steering Committee.

On the Executive Committee both the position of Secretary and Vice President/President Elect are open for election in September.

The position of Secretary is a two-year term. This individual serves on both the SMR Executive Committee and as a member of the SMR Steering Committee.

The position of Vice President/ President Elect is a bit more complicated. This individual serves one year as Vice President and the second year as President Elect. At the end of the second year the President Elect assumes the position of Society President for a two-year term. After their two-year term as President they fulfil the position of Immediate Past President for an additional two years.

SMR will also have elections for several open seats on the Society Steering Committee. These individuals can serve up to two consecutive three-year terms.

A brief description of the Steering Committee includes:

  • Attend and participate in steering committee meetings on a regular basis
  • Diligently read, review, and inquire about material that affects the Society
  • Keep abreast of the affairs and finances of the society
  • Use independent judgment when analysing matters that affect the corporation
  • Vote on business matters of the Society as deemed necessary
  • Promote membership, congress participation, and other initiatives hosted by SMR
  • Avoid any potential conflicts of interest and identify them to the President if you are concerned
  • Represent SMR to the global melanoma community to the best of your ability

Additional participation may include:

  • Guide/lead the society membership by joining sub-committees on topics like membership recruitment
  • Author articles for the quarterly SMR newsletter
  • Initiate new ideas and action steps that further the mission of SMR

If you are interested in being considered for any of these positions, have questions about serving or have someone to recommend for consideration of the nominating committee please email our Association Manager, Debra Marshall debra@sswmeetings.com no later than August 1, 2020.

Coronavirus Resources

These are extremely difficult times for the entire melanoma community. We are all working and living in situations that we would never have dreamed about 6 months ago. We sincerely hope that you are all managing to cope and we want to extend our support as a Society to everyone dealing with the challenges of these times.

As a practical measure we have put together some resources (from the very many available) which we hope you may find useful.

General resources

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus resource centre - https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

National institute for health COVID-19 portfolio – search engine specifically for COVID-19 publications https://icite.od.nih.gov/covid19/search/

Financial times tracker - https://www.ft.com/coronavirus-latest

CDC guidance - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Strategies to reopen https://www.aei.org/2019-coronavirus-coverage/

Laboratory resources

Communication tools:

Slack (https://slack.com) is a collaborative software that organizes teams to work in channels, unifying all their messages, tools and files in one place. There is a Free option for small-size teams, but also offers advanced features for a monthly fee.

Zoom (https://zoom.us/) With Zoom we can work in a distributed way up to 100 people at a time, free of charge, and even reach 1,000 people, according to the paid plan. We also have the possibility of creating different virtual rooms and sub-rooms to work in teams or in plenary. It is very useful for large meetings or even remote training.

Meet (https://meet.google.com/) easy to use, Meet is a Google app to create Video Conferences. Hangouts Meet is integrated with Google Calendar and you can connect to meetings directly from there or from an email invitation. We recommend this tool for more informal or small sessions (up to 10 people approximately).

Tools to organize work:

Asana (https://asana.com/) A complete tool that integrates communication, boards, calendar, planner, repository, etc. with a lot of possibilities for teams and for the management of different projects in the same virtual space.

Teams (https://teams.microsoft.com/). Like Asana, Teams is the corporate version from Microsoft that also integrates a large part of the tools in one, allowing us to have everything in one place.

Document repositories:

Drive (https://www.google.es/drive/apps.html). Offers storage capacity and opportunities to share it within the team (and create shared folders with guests), allow us to store neatly all the work we develop.

GooglePhotos (https://www.google.com/photos/about/). For videos and photos. It gives us a lot of storage capacity, and allows us to easily share folders with audio-visual content.

OneDrive (https://products.office.com/en-us/onedrive/online-cloud-storage). One more option to centralize documents. Perfect for teams that work with Microsoft Teams.

Dropbox (https://www.dropbox.com/). Another known repository for storing documents. It is useful for centralizing and ordering shared and open content without being a Google or Microsoft user.

Other tools:

Doodle (https://doodle.com/en/). This application is very useful to set a date for meetings.

Loomio (https://www.loomio.org/). It is a free software tool, designed to make decisions collectively without the need to be together or to deal with endless office emails.

Kahoot (https://kahoot.com/). It is a star tool to make learning and presentations fun. In addition, it has functionalities to prepare training events.

Mentimeter (https://www.mentimeter.com/). It works great in events! It is used to make presentations and events interactive. It allows us to prepare presentations and launch questions to the audience and, in turn, we can see their answers in real time with graphics, word clouds, a ranking of options.

Recommendations for Remote Meetings:

  • Find a quiet place to avoid disturbances for yourself and those around you
  • Avoid backlight, do not sit in front of the window.
  • Turn on the lights or make sure there is enough daylight to illuminate your face

Before the call

  • Test your tech, lighting, and connection before the call
  • Disable notifications on your device during the call
  • Arrive early to allow for some small talk, set up your equipment and connection
  • Use a headset to be able to focus better on the call

During the call

  • Mute yourself when you are not speaking and do not forget to unmute yourself when you do.
  • Make sure everyone gets a chance to speak
  • Take a break for coffee or stretching
  • Appoint a facilitator to orchestrate the meeting

Clinical resources

ASCO coronavirus resources - https://www.asco.org/asco-coronavirus-information

Consensus guidelines from UK melanoma experts in collaboration with patients regarding melanoma treatment during the outbreak - https://melanomafocus.com/members/coronavirus-info-professionals/

NICE guideline for delivery of systemic cancer therapy during pandemic


Living mapping and network meta-analysis providing an overview of Covid-19 studies


Palliative care guidelines for patients with coronavirus including useful symptom management algorithms


Handbook and resource centre written by Chinese experts managing Coronavirus


Useful resource for video/telemedicine consultations


Mental Well-being

UK NHS tips on how to cope during Coronavirus outbreak


WHO mental health resource during Coronavirus outbreak https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf?sfvrsn=6d3578af_8

Free mindfulness sessions/podcast by Oxford Mindfulness centre


Physical Well-being

It is important to stay active and to exercise during confinement. For those of you that were already subscribed to a Gym or health Centre, most probably your trainers have adapted your schedules so you can keep training from home through Zoom meetings, YouTube, Instagram, or even their app tools. For those of you who do not have a training program, these resources may prove useful for you:

Los Angeles-based coach and sports camp director Rio Saken regularly posts free and fun daily kids workouts on YouTube to help parents keep their kids active and healthy during these challenging times (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJ5_qo1UnyQ&feature=youtu.be)

Physiotools (https://www.physiotools.com/#) a professional tool for Exercising at home, with personalized training programs.

Les Mills YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/lesmillsgroupfitness) offers Free workouts including BodyCombat and Dance videos.

Mobile Phone apps: PEAR Personal Fitness Coach (Free), Fitbit Coach, Workout Trainer (Free), Peloton Digital, Nike Training Club (Free), FitOn (Free), The Be.Come Project, JEFIT (Free), You Are Your Own Gym, Aaptiv, Daily Burn, Kineticoach, ASICS Studio, Freeletics (Free), 8Fit (Free), Yoga Studio, Seven (Free), Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout App (Free), Keelo (Free, only for iOS), Sworkit (Free), Pocket Yoga, FitRadio, Tone It Up, Seconds Pro, StrongLifts 5x5,

Home schooling science links for children



Daily bitesize lessons from the British Broadcasting Corporation including teaching from David Attenborough https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/bitesize-daily-lessons-schedule/zdtwjhv


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 virtual event that we are planning for the Fall of 2020. We will provide additional information as it becomes available on the SMR website and in future editions of the SMR newsletter.