Melanoma Research Labs
Principal Investigator: Lisa A. Cannon-Albright, PhD
Dr. Cannon-Albright spearheaded the pedigree studies that discovered melanoma predisposition genes CDKN2A and GOLM1. She created a resource of more than 35,000 DNA specimens from thousands of high-risk Utah disease pedigrees, including hundreds of high-risk melanoma cases. Dr. Cannon-Albright is one of the most resourceful and productive users of the Utah Population Database, developing new methodologies that make powerful use of Utah high-risk pedigrees.
Principal Investigator: Douglas Grossman, MD, PhD
The Grossman Lab investigates genetic factors underlying melanoma risk and to develop novel strategies for melanoma prevention. Roughly 10% of melanoma patients have a positive family history of melanoma, and germline variants in the CDKN2A (or p16) gene are identified in about one-third of melanoma families. We study how particular p16 variants affect pathways involved in melanoma development using cell-based and animal models. The major environmental risk factor for melanoma is UV exposure. We have explored anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory drugs for their ability to protect against the various harmful effects of acute UV exposure. For these studies, we employ genetically engineered mouse models and high-risk human subjects to test whether particular compounds can reduce UV-induced melanoma in mice and prevent UV-induced damage to moles.
Principal Investigator: Allie Harris Grossmann, MD, PhD
The Grossman Lab focuses on understanding mechanisms of cancer progression and developing clinical interventions. Our goals are to uncover novel mechanisms of tumorigenesis and metastasis; identify biomarkers that prognosticate disease progression or predict treatment response; and collaborate with industry to develop new therapies for the prevention and treatment of cancer progression.
Principal Investigator: Sheri L. Holmen, PhD
A major initiative in the Holmen Lab has been to develop a mouse model of melanoma that is similar to the human disease. We have used this model to identify genes and proteins with differential roles in melanoma initiation, resistance to targeted therapy, and disease progression. Metastasis is responsible for more than 90% of all cancer-related deaths; unfortunately, melanoma has a tendency to metastasize early in disease progression. In melanoma patients, the most common sites of metastases are skin, lung, and brain. Brain metastases are associated with extremely poor prognosis and are often responsible for treatment failure. Therefore, we focus our research efforts on furthering understanding brain metastasis so improved therapies can be developed for these patients.
Principal Investigator: Robert L. Judson-Torres, PhD
The Judson-Torres Lab investigates how melanoma begins. One major focus is characterizing distinct types of human melanocytes, and using this knowledge to uncover candidate therapeutics for combating understudied and particularly deadly subclasses of the disease. A second major project characterizes melanocytic nevi—the common mole—which can give rise to melanoma. By deciphering the molecular mechanisms that stabilize moles against transformation, we hope to inform strategies for prevention and early intervention of the disease.
Principal Investigator: Martin McMahon, PhD
The McMahon Lab is interested in discovering therapeutic vulnerabilities in melanomas driven either by mutationally activated BRAF or NRAS. We have a particular focus on targeting the RAS-regulated MAP kinase pathway or the PI3’-kinase pathway and their downstream effectors. Our long-term goal is that research conducted in our laboratory will be translated into novel clinical trials that will benefit patients with melanoma.
Principal Investigator: Matthew W. VanBrocklin, PhD
The VanBrocklin Lab focuses on developing agents to harness the immune system to eliminate melanoma. To this end, we have developed a class of novel oncolytic viruses that selectively replicate in tumor cells. Systemic or local delivery of these viruses leads to upregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, direct tumor lysis, and release of tumor antigens. This culminates in long-lasting, host-directed antitumor activity, which is enhanced when combined with immune checkpoint blockade. We are currently expanding our preclinical assessment and viral production capacity while actively seeking partners to advance these agents clinically.
Principal Investigator: Yelena Wu, PhD
The Wu Team focuses on melanoma prevention among children, adolescents, and their families. Early life behaviors such as use of sun protection are key risk factors for developing melanoma. We develop novel ways of changing peoples’ behaviors and helping them understand their risk for melanoma. Interventions we design are delivered through multiple modalities, including telehealth, in-person, in schools, and through everyday technologies such as cell phones. Our goal is to help young people engage in melanoma preventive behaviors consistently while continuing to lead active and healthy lives, so that they lower their risk for developing melanoma later in life.