Just weeks after a possible breakthrough by scientists studying the deadliest form of skin cancer, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute announced a gift of $1 million on Monday from the charity of San Diego lawyer and philanthropist Matt Hervey.
The donation from The Hervey Family Fund, routed through The San Diego Foundation, will allow the institute to continue its reasearch into melanoma. A team of scientists at the institute, led by Ze'ev Ronai, recently linked a gene called PDK1 to the formation and metastasis of melanoma tumors.
"The Hervey family's support demonstrates the power of serendipity in scientific research," said Gregory Lucier, Chairman of Sanford-Burnham's Board of Trustees and Chairman and CEO of Life Technologies. "Their generosity is perfectly timed to help the Ronai team pursue this new discovery into the therapeutic realm. We are grateful to the Herveys and to The San Diego Foundation for making the gift possible."
According to Sanford-Burnham, the money will enable the research team to explore ways to inhibit PDK1 and find components along the gene's pathway, to pinpoint those that should be targeted to halt melanoma metastasis and overcome resistance to therapy.
"Our family has suffered from skin cancer, so to see its defeat is a personal battle," Hervey said. "The scientists at the institute are doing marvelous research. Because advances in medicine will continue to come at an ever-so-faster pace, we want them to be equipped and prepared to meet that pace."
The PDK1 gene is known to be involved in normal cell processes like metabolism and protein translation, but it has also been implicated in some types of cancer, such as pancreatic cancer. The study led by Ronai was the first to show that the PDK1 gene is required for the development and metastasis of melanoma.
Findings from the research have been published in the journal Oncogene.
The National Cancer Institute ranks melanoma as the fifth most common type of new cancer diagnosis in American men and the sixth in American women. An estimated 76,700 will be diagnosed with the disease and 9,500 will die of it in 2013, according to the agency's statistics.
According to Sanford-Burnham, sunny San Diego made a list of 20 Sunburn Capitals in the U.S. and had the highest incidence of melanoma in the nation, at 29.1 per 100,000 people.
—City News Service