President’s Message – January 2020

I hope 2020 has started off well for you.

Over here at AIM, the year has started with a bang! There is so much going on for us—it’s exhilarating.

The most critical work we do is managing and funding research initiatives to find the cure for melanoma, and the most important article in this month’s newsletter is our announcement that we’ve opened the fourth U.S. branch of the International Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium (IMTBC).

For those new to AIM or the melanoma world, researchers say the primary tumor holds the entire genetic code, and fresh frozen primary tissue has been called “the holy grail of resources for melanoma researchers” because, among several reasons, the RNA is intact when tissue is fresh frozen. But unfortunately for melanoma, unlike other cancers, primary tumors are not generally removed in a hospital setting and therefore rarely able to be fresh frozen for research. But AIM created the IMTBC and has partnered with six institutions around the globe to collect, freeze, annotate, and perform research on 500+ fresh-frozen primary tumors.

The newly opened branch is at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, Northwestern University in Chicago, and will operate under the watchful eye of Jeffrey Wayne, MD. Northwestern joins our other three U.S. locations: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Hillman Cancer Center; Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco; and the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Our two international branches in Australia should open soon—please look for those press releases in the next few months.

We just launched a BRAF education initiative. What is BRAF, and how does it affect melanoma treatment? BRAF is a mutation that’s present in about half of all melanoma cases. Click here to find videos that answer common questions and address common misconceptions about BRAF. And check out the Facebook Live presentation about BRAF by Melissa Wilson, PA-C, MPAS, AIM’s “Ask an Expert,” scheduled for January 29 at 7 pm EST.

Be sure to read this month’s In Plain English article about the role of dermatopathologists in diagnosing melanoma. They are highly skilled physicians that you “see” without even knowing it. And their role is critical: They decide if your biopsied skin sample is melanoma or not. While they aren’t generally patient-facing, they know their diagnoses affect patients immensely. They strive for accuracy and work collaboratively, especially on challenging cases. How do we know all this about dermatopathologists? Because Alicia Rowell, AIM’s Vice President, serves as the Public Member on the Board of The American Society of Dermatopathologists (ASDP), the largest professional group in the country for this medical specialty.  Fifteen-hundred members strong, the group meets yearly to learn from each other, complete continuing education, and discuss ethical and medical issues of the day. AIM’s involvement with many organizations like this one that affects melanoma patients is how we keep abreast of what is happening and advocate for patients in all corners of the world of melanoma.

Also in this newsletter is an article intending to answer a question we get every day of the year, which is “How can I help?”.  There are many ways—read here to find out.

Finally, some internal news we’d like to share is that Samantha Guild is now our Executive Director. Congratulations, Sam!

Enjoy 2020!

Valerie Guild
Founder & President
AIM at Melanoma Foundation
The Foundation Working to End Melanoma

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