The most deadliest form of skin cancer is also one that goes the most undetected even by people who get regular screenings. Melanoma can appear under nails, on the soles of feet and on the neck. Good Day talks with a melanoma survivor, Debra Black, and a physician, Dr. Jedd Wolchok, who are working diligently to get the word out about the need for increased screenings.
Melanoma is form of cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin), according to the National Cancer Institure. Melanoma may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines.
Debra Black is Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Melanoma Research Alliance. After being diagnosed with melanoma, she was spurred to action upon learning that outcomes for patients with advanced melanoma today are no better than they were decades ago. With melanoma incidence rising and survival for those with advanced disease static at 15%, in 2007 Ms. Black and her husband, Leon, worked with Michael Milken to launch the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA). MRA is now a non-profit organization, established under the auspices of the Milken Institute, dedicated to accelerating scientific progress toward a cure for melanoma. MRA finds and funds cutting-edge translational research.
In forming MRA, the Blacks have been informed by best practices learned from the Prostate Cancer Foundation, FasterCures and like-minded foundations and organizations dedicated to accelerating cures. They believe that venture philanthropy coupled with a global and strategic scientific agenda can spur innovative research needed to develop improve the outlook for patients with melanoma, as well as those at risk. Now in its third year of grantmaking, the MRA is fast-forwarding melanoma research by supporting novel, collaborative, and outcomes-driven programs.
Ms. Black is a Broadway Producer and presently serves on the boards of Lincoln Center Theater, The Living Room for Artists, 760 Park Avenue and the New York State Council on the Arts. Her latest project is Behanding in Spokane, with other productions including: The Pillowman, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Tony Award winner The History Boys, Butley, The Vertical Hour, The Year of Magical Thinking, Deuce, Inherit the Wind, Frost/Nixon, Coram Boy, Gypsy, Thurgood, The Country Girl, Tony Award winner August: Osage County, Mary Stuart and Superior Donuts.
Ms. Black holds a B.A. in English from Barnard College and resides in Manhattan with her husband. They have four children.