Cancer researcher awarded $750,000 to help advance new treatments for melanoma

UCLA melanoma researcher Dr. Roger Lo

The American Skin Association has awarded Dr. Roger Lo, professor of dermatology and molecular and medical pharmacology in the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, with the Abby S. and Howard P. Milstein Innovation Award for Melanoma/Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Research.

Lo will receive $750,000 to help speed research discoveries for prevention, new treatments and, ultimately, a cure for the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Lo is an accomplished physician-scientist widely recognized for his work in understanding treatment-resistant melanoma. His laboratory’s research focus is on genomic, epigenomic and immunologic factors that shape the cancer’s evolution on molecularly targeted therapies and/or immune checkpoint inhibitors.

He has led groundbreaking research into resistance mechanisms against a promising class of drugs known as BRAF inhibitors and discovered ways to block multiple resistance routes and shrink tumors in people with advanced disease. Approximately 50 percent of advanced melanoma tumors, which often metastasize throughout the body, are driven to spread by the presence of BRAF mutations and therefore treatable by BRAF inhibitors. Lo’s group is also working to tackle resistance mechanisms in additional subsets of melanoma in order to test novel therapies for these patients.

“I am very honored to receive this award on behalf of my research group and the melanoma program at UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center,” Lo said. “Many patients with advanced melanoma still do not respond to approved therapies. So it is imperative that we intensify research efforts to discover new treatment strategies.” 

Lo’s research has been supported by the National Cancer Institute, American Skin Association, Melanoma Research Alliance, Melanoma Research Foundation, Ressler Family Foundation, Friedman Foundation and Steven C. Gordon Family Foundation. He has published his findings in top-tier journals such as Cell, Nature and Cancer Discovery and received the 33rd Annual Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research (2013) and the Inaugural Waun-Ki Hong Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research (2017), both from the American Association for Cancer Research.