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Matthew Block, M.D., Ph.D., and Tina Hieken, M.D., receive Stand up to Cancer Catalyst Award for melanoma research

Matthew Block, M.D., Ph.D. (IMM ’05, MDPD ’05, MDPH ’05, I ’08, CI ’10, HEMO ’11), Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Oncology, and Tina Hieken, M.D. (S ’11), Division of Breast, Endocrine, Metabolic, and Gastrointestinal Surgery, Department of Surgery – both at Mayo Clinic in Rochester – received a Stand up to Cancer (SU2C) Catalyst Award to fund melanoma research and a neoadjuvant clinical trial.

The study, Neoactivate, will test two novel approaches to the treatment of patients with high-risk stage 3 melanoma guided by specific mutations within the melanoma. The study will look at the efficacy of two drug therapies when given before and after surgery in patients, and will evaluate key biomarkers of treatment response and patient outcomes.

Patients in the clinical trial will receive the combination of cobimetinib and atezolizumab, or the combination of vemurafenib, cobimetinib and atezolizumab, followed by surgery and adjuvant treatment with atezolizumab.

Drs. Block and Hieken say they hope to learn if the combination of targeted therapy and immunotherapy before surgery, and immunotherapy after surgery works better than standard adjuvant therapy for treating patients with high-risk, stage 3 melanoma. They also plan to identify biomarkers that may predict treatment response.

Dr. Block is an associate professor of oncology and an instructor in medicine, and Dr. Hieken is an associate professor of surgery in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

Stand up to Cancer raises funds to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. Stand up to Cancer, a division of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, was established in 2008 by film and media leaders who use the industry’s resources to engage the public in supporting a new, collaborative model of cancer research, and increase awareness about cancer prevention, as well as progress being made in the fight against the disease. As Stand up to Cancer’s scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research and a Scientific Advisory Committee led by Nobel laureate Philip Sharp, Ph.D., conduct rigorous, competitive review processes to identify the best research proposals to recommend for funding, oversee grants administration and provide expert review of research progress.

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