Dr. Roger Lo receives grant to find ways to prevent melanoma resistance

UCLA melanoma researcher Dr. Roger Lo

Dr. Roger Lo, professor of medicine, dermatology and molecular & medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, received an $800,000 grant from the V Foundation to study new ways to defeat malignant melanoma, an aggressive type of skin cancer that often becomes resistant to current cancer treatments.

While melanoma is responsible for a vast majority of skin cancer deaths, advancements in targeted therapies and immunotherapies have transformed the way people with melanoma are treated. One treatment targets the mitogen-activated protein kinase cancer pathway that sustains the growth of many types of cancer. Another, immune checkpoint blockade therapy, unleashes the body’s cancer-killing immune cells. However, after initial responses, about 20%–40% of patients experience a relapse as the cancer develops resistance to the therapies.

When cancer cells are treated, they change and diversify genetically, creating new variations to increase their chances of surviving and growing. The grant will allow Lo and his team to investigate how this diversity occurs in response to targeted therapies and immune-based treatments, so they can find ways to prevent resistance. This is the third grant Lo has received from the V Foundation, founded by ESPN and the late basketball coach Jim Valvano, which funds game-changing cancer research

“When melanoma becomes resistant, it becomes more challenging to treat and control the disease,” said Lo, a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “By understanding the genomic instability mechanisms behind early seeds of resistance, we hope to develop new therapies that can stop cancer cells from becoming resistant and reduce the need for additional treatments to control the cancer.”