Vernon Sondak, M.D.

Funded by the Coopers Catch fundraiser, Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and Dick Vitale

Melanoma arising in young patients (under age 21) has becoming an increasingly major problem in the US. Very little is known about the specific causes of melanoma in younger individuals, and the prognosis is very difficult to determine. In many cases, even whether a mole is benign or malignant is in question, adding to the stress of a difficult situation for patients and families. Newer molecular tests, developed for analyzing other forms of cancer, could potentially help establish the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment for patients, but these tests have not been validated in young patients and are usually not covered by insurance – forcing families to pay out-of-pocket when and if they can. Moffitt Cancer Center is one of the world’s leading centers for diagnosis, treatment and research in melanoma in children, adolescents and young adults. This project will involve molecular testing of the tumor specimens from patients under 21 who have known or suspected melanoma, avoiding out-of-pocket expenses for unproven technology, and the results of these tests will be correlated with standard pathology analysis and the results of medically necessary surgery (such as wide excision and sentinel node biopsy) and/or medical treatments (such as immunotherapy). The results will set the stage for larger efforts to discover why melanoma occurs in such young individuals, and for the validation of clinical tests to determine how patients should be treated – which could then be used to support insurance coverage for those tests that are most helpful.

Location: H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Inc. - Florida
Proposal: Improving Our Understanding of Pediatric Melanoma and Atypical melanocytic Neoplasms
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