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Five female scientists are working on ground-breaking Melanoma research

Dr Liz Patton from the MRC IGMM, as one of five female scientists leading a Melanoma Research Team, is currently featuring on the L’Oreal Paris website: June 2017

Dr Liz Patton from the MRC IGMM, as one of five female scientists leading a Melanoma Research Team, is currently featuring on the L’Oreal Paris website.

Five female scientists are working on ground-breaking Melanoma research
Dr Liz Patton

The L’Oréal Paris USA–MRA Team Science Award for Women in Scientific Research, awarded in May 2016, recognises the collaborative efforts by these five top-notch female investigators whose research focuses on malignant melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer whose incidence continues to rise globally every year. The international research project’s main objective is to define how Melanoma develops, with a particular focus on why Melanoma is the only disease where skin lesions barely 2mm thick can disseminate cancer cells (metastasize) throughout a person’s body, spreading from one organ to another. Some patients succumb to metastasis within months, while in others, the tumor cells can remain silent or “dormant” for years or decades before spreading.

The global, multi-institutional research team consists of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), The Wistar Institute; the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine; the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City.

Representing Scotland, Spain and the United States, the all-female led team is focusing on the mechanisms that distinguish fast-growing Melanomas from those that are dormant. As each of the 5 lead researchers specialises in different areas of Melanoma research, they hope that by working together, they will be able to make major strides in Melanoma diagnosis and treatment. This research team is unique because it will utilise a combination of multiple imaging techniques that allows them to follow tumour cells from the very early stages of this type of skin cancer.

This three-year project has four major goals:

  1. To identify biomarkers of active metastasis.
  2. To define how tumour cells can become “dormant,” and why at some point, they get “awakened.”
  3. To validate treatments that could attack both dividing and silent melanoma cells.
  4. To mentor and empower new female researchers in the melanoma field.

A key goal of this women-lead research team is to mentor and empower new female researchers in the Melanoma field. Along with Dr Soengas from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre, Liz co-authored an editorial on ways to help promote the advancement of female scientists

Dr E. Elizabeth Patton is a Reader and MRC Programme Leader Scientist at the MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh. Her lab at the MRC Human Genetics Unit has close collaborations with the CRUK Research Centre, both within the MRC IGMM. Dr. Patton’s research is funded by the Medical Research Council, the European Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and a L’Oréal Paris USA–MRA Team Science Award for Women in Scientific Research.

In 2013, there were over 13,000 new cases of Melanoma in the UK, and 2,000 deaths from Melanoma. Melanoma is more common than many other cancers (e.g. breast cancer, bowel cancer, lung cancer) in people aged between 20 and 40. It’s already the most common cancer amongst the 15-34 age group and by 2030, it’s predicted that Melanoma will be one of the top 5 cancers in the UK. Currently, 1 in 5 patients who get melanoma will die of their cancer and treatments for Melanoma that has recurred and spread are poor.

Dr Liz Patton’s research is focused on understanding how melanocytes, the pigment cells that become melanoma, develop, divide, migrate and maintain themselves within their microenvironment, as well as the genetic and cellular events that cause melanocytes to form moles that develop into invasive cancer. Her Lab uses the zebrafish model system that Liz originally developed, which allows the visualisation of developing and migrating melanocytes, as well as their aberrant progression to melanoma.

Relevant links

Dr E. Elizabeth Patton Research Group: http://www.ed.ac.uk/mrc-human-genetics-unit/research/patton-group

L’Oreal Paris Web Article: https://www.lorealparisusa.com/beauty-magazine/skin-care/sun-care-and-self-tanning/melanoma-research-by-female-scientists.aspx

Melanoma Research Alliance (USA): www.CureMelanoma.org MRA is a public charity formed in 2007 under the auspices of the Milken Institute, with founding support of Debra and Leon Black. MRA is the largest private funder of melanoma research world-wide. In 2016, the MRA has funded 17 additional grants to support a total of 46 investigators in 30 institutions spanning seven countries. To date, MRA has dedicated more than $79 million to foster important discoveries across the globe to better understand and treat malignant melanoma.

L’Oreal Paris: www.ItsThatWorthIt.org

Since 2013, L’Oréal Paris USA has donated $750,000 to MRA to support the fight to prevent melanoma. For the next three years, L’Oréal Paris USA will continue supporting MRA by donating $250,000 per year.

Melanoma UK: http://www.melanomauk.org.uk/patient-information/research/