Melanoma Research Foundation

Supporting the Melanoma Community this Holiday Season and Beyond

From the desk of MRF CEO Kyleigh LiPira:

As we enter the final month of 2023, on behalf of the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) staff and board, we wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season. We know this time of year is hard for many of those in our community who have lost a loved one, are currently enduring treatments or are caring for a loved one with this disease. 

We aim to lighten the load for those carrying the burden of this disease and remain a valuable lifeline to the entire melanoma community with many resources available including: a treatment center finder, clinical trial finder, oncology nurse to answer questions by reaching out to, support groups, peer-to-peer patient forum and through our Education Institute, countless educational webinars on many topics related to cutaneous melanoma and its rarer subtypes and much more. In particular we have a new clinical trial animated melanoma patient video. This module hopes to bring awareness to clinical trials, explain what clinical trials are, how they are conducted and why they are so important for patients with melanoma. This is a great resource for all melanoma patients and caregivers.  

While we have made great strides in research and treatment and 50% of patients with metastatic cutaneous disease will have life extended to at least 5 years, these statistics are more dismal for those with the rare subtypes such as ocular, mucosal and acral. We must do better for our community and keep pushing the boundaries until we have a cure for all. We know there are many deserving organizations focused on important causes out there but hope you will consider investing with the MRF, an organization that aims to cure melanoma and is 100% funded by the community it serves. You can help extend our mission critical programs and resources by making a one-time or monthly recurring gift online. 

Thank you for sharing your stories, time, and energy with us. Centering patient and caregiver voices and perspectives in all our work is a key value of the MRF. We are grateful for your partnership and look forward to achieving great strides, working together, towards eradicating melanoma. 

With gratitude,

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 "The impact that groundbreaking treatments have had on our family is what drives us to fund more research for improved patient outcomes while working towards a cure. One of the most powerful ways to provide a steady flow of research dollars to supplement the MRF’s annual fundraising work is through an endowment.” - Tom Westdyk

Westdyk Family Invests in Research for the Future

On November 1, the Legacy of Progress Endowment Fund was launched, marking a significant milestone in our fight against melanoma. This pioneering endeavor embodies our unwavering commitment to advancing melanoma research and ensuring a legacy of progress for generations to come.  

As we invite you to explore this initiative further, we want to share a powerful narrative that encapsulates the real impact of our mission. We invite you to watch a heartfelt video featuring several MRF Board members who have been personally impacted by melanoma. In this video, you'll meet Tom Westdyk, a MRF Board Member and parent of a courageous individual who embodied the spirit of resilience in the face of melanoma.

Hear Tom’s story of his son Chris’ journey. It is stories like Chris and many others who are the reason we created the Legacy of Progress Endowment FundChris’ story not only underscores the strides made through research but also sheds light on the remaining opportunities for advancement in treatment options. It is people like Chris, who are at the heart of our mission, illustrating how your support has the power to create a meaningful impact in the lives of individuals touched by melanoma. 

The Legacy of Progress Endowment Fund is not merely a fund; it's a force for good. It will fuel ongoing and new research projects, academic studies, and scientific investigations. As donors contribute, envision your generosity as an investment in the future. The principal amount grows, forming a stable and enduring source of funding for scientific endeavors. This endowment ensures that vital research initiatives persist, even when traditional funding sources might be scarce. By creating a sustainable funding stream, we are not just dreaming; we are actively pushing the boundaries of what's possible.Your support today could be the driving force behind improved outcomes and one day a cure. 

We hope that you will consider donating today to become a member of the Legacy of Progress Society. You can learn more about ways to donate by visiting and/or reach out to Liz Reilly, Sr. Development Officer at with questions.  

Your gift. Your legacy. Our mission.  

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Announcing Recent Grantees and Notice of Upcoming MRF Grants – Apply Now!

We are delighted to announce this year’s Breakthrough Consortium (BC) Young Investigator Team Award to Kristen Richards, MD (MDACC; mentor: Anisha Patel, MD), Kristen Pauken, PhD (MDACC; mentor: Padmanee Sharma, MD, PhD), and Noah Hornick, MD, PhD (Oregon Health & Science University; mentor: Amy Moran, PhD) for their research project titled, “Evaluation of cutaneous immune related adverse events by morphotype.” Their work is focused on elucidating the cell types and signals that cause immune-related adverse events (irAEs) in the skin, with the hope of ultimately allowing doctors to choose treatments for irAEs that are as targeted as possible and less likely to impact patients’ melanoma treatments. We are thankful for the generosity of Bristol Myers Squibb for sponsoring the 2023 MRFBC Young Investigator Team Award.  

Mid-Career Bridge Grants are accepted until December 15th, 2023, at 5pm ET. This award will be for established melanoma researchers with pre-existing R01s, who have applied for a NIH R01 grant that was scored, but not funded. To support and sustain these investigators while they generate the data for the Response to Reviewers in the revised R01 (A1) submission, the MRF is offering bridge funding of up to $100,000 for one year.Additional information can be found in the 2023 Mid-Career Bridge Grant RFP on our website.

New this Year! Resident/Fellow Research Grant applications for 2024 grants will be accepted until January 31, 2024, at 5pm ET. The purpose of these 1-year, $10,000 awards is to promote research opportunities to resident/fellows early in their careers by funding clinical or laboratory-based research projects focused on better understanding the prevention, early detection, behaviors that impact melanoma risk, biology and treatment of melanoma, including cutaneous, ocular, mucosal, pediatric, etc. Additional information can be found in the 2024 Resident/ Fellow Grant RFP on our website and Proposal Central.   

For all questions about research funding opportunities or any aspect of the MRF research program, please email 



Advancing Science Through Research Grants

What better gift than the gift of researchThis year, name a research grant in honor or memory of a loved one!  

The MRF has funded approximately $25 million in peer-reviewed research grants to-date, including one-year, $3,000 Medical Student Grants and our newest $10,000 Resident Fellow Grant for bright young people who are interested in researching melanoma. In 2023, we awarded the highest number of Medical Student grant awards to date, 4 of which were focused on rare melanoma researchThe 2024 medical student research applications are currently under review; other 2024 grant programs are or soon will be completed. Donors are able to have a grant named in memory or honor of a loved one or any other name. For more information, please contact Liz Reilly at Limited opportunities are available. 

To learn more about our full Research Grant program, visit the Research Grant RFP page. 



Funded Researchers Contribute to International Science Meetings

The MRF had a strong presence at the 20th International Congress of the Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) and this year’s Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC). At both meetings, we engaged with the latest trends in melanoma research and advancements through the work of MRF-funded researchers. The CURE OM initiative also led the field forward by bringing together key ocular melanoma researchers and clinicians to catalyze critical research conversations focused on overcoming barriers and strengthening facilitators of progress bringing hope to patients. Learn more about these meetings and the impactful findings presented here. 



Announcing a new Animated Patient Video Module and Infographic on Melanoma Clinical Trials  

We are very excited to share that we have launched our Clinical Trials Animated Patient Video Module.

Throughout the module you will see we have also included expert videos from Dr. Michael Atkins, Deputy Director, Georgetown-Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and Dr. Sapna Patel, Melanoma Medical Oncologist, and Chair of the SWOG Cancer Research Network. Additionally, we have two patient stories, one from Doug Brodman, patient advocate and MRF Board Chair and Kristina Baum, patient advocate and MRF Board Member. 

You can also access a helpful infographic resource. Review it online or even order it for print copy through our Education Institute here

This module hopes to bring awareness to clinical trials, explain what clinical trials are, how they are conducted and why they are so important for patients with melanoma.

If you would like to show this animated video at an event, or display it in your waiting room, or use it for other purposes, please connect with us by contacting

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Educational Programs and Resources

Ask the Expert

This month we hosted a special Ask the Expert webinar where we reviewed the latest ocular melanoma (OM) research presented and discussed at the recent CURE OM Global Science meeting. Hear from OM specialists Dr. Marlana Orloff from Thomas Jefferson University, Dr. Marcus Butler from University of Toronto and Nigel Deacon, patient advocate and co-founder of Ocumel Canada. If you were unable to join the live webinar or want to revisit the presentation, the recording is now available on the MRF YouTube channel.

Virtual Patient & Caregiver Symposium

The next virtual cutaneous melanoma patient symposium on Thursday, December 7Additional information including a full agenda is included here; mark your calendars today and plan to join us for an informative symposium in December. Recordings from our previous patient symposia series are available to view on the MRF YouTube page.

Adult Young Adult (AYA) Retreat Recap  

In September, we hosted the AYA retreat for melanoma survivors in partnership with True North Treks. Read more about the experience here. 

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Save the Date: Advocacy Days 2024

We are excited to announce that the 2024 Advocacy Days will be held March 3-5 in Washington, DC. Next year’s event will once again convene nationwide melanoma patients, thrivers, caregivers and advocates for an impactful three-day session on Capitol Hill. During the event, attendees will participate in interactive training sessions on legislative issues pertinent to the melanoma community such as federal funding to support melanoma research, equitable and affordable access to testing and treatments, and melanoma prevention. Attendees will also engage with their district’s congressional offices providing their stories and advocating to ensure a better future for all impacted by melanoma. 

Registration will open in December, so stay tuned for access to the registration portal. You can sign up here to receive all the latest updates about this important event, and then join us in our nation’s capital to be the voice of the melanoma community.


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Wrapping up the 2023 Miles for Melanoma Season

The Miles for Melanoma team traveled to San Francisco, CA this past month where the melanoma community raised over $56,000! With only two events remaining this season, we’re looking forward to seeing our communities in Fort Myers, FL (December 9th) and Miami, FL (February 11th) before preparing for the 2024 season. There’s still time to register for both of these upcoming events or make a donation to your favorite team, click here to learn more.



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