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June 19, 2003

Abramson Cancer Center and The Wistar Institute Sponsor First International Melanoma Research Meeting

Skin cancer is focus of Foundation for Melanoma Research

(Philadelphia, PA) - More than 300 international experts in cancer research will attend the first-ever International Melanoma Research Congress, taking place in Philadelphia, from June 21-24, 2003 (at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel.) The Congress is co-sponsored by the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania and The Wistar Institute, and will be hosted by the locally based Foundation for Melanoma Research. The Congress will highlight the widespread occurrence of melanoma and bring together diverse experts in the ever-growing field of melanoma research, including the clinicians who treat patients, and the researchers who specialize in the basic sciences of how cancer genes work.

"Melanoma is an important disease - both in the US and elsewhere, and it is becoming increasingly more common" says DuPont Guerry, MD, Congress Co-Chair and Director of the Melanoma Program at the Abramson Cancer Center. "Girls and boys born this year have, respectively, a one in 81 and one in 57 chance of developing melanoma in their lifetimes."

For 2003, the American Cancer Society estimates that over 54,000 Americans (2,700 Pennsylvanians) will be diagnosed with invasive melanoma and 7,600 will die from the disease.

The Congress' theme is that good research revolutionizes therapy. Areas of interest to be covered include: effectiveness of sunscreen products at preventing skin cancer, predicting risk of developing melanoma through identification of high-risk genes and analyzing family history, vaccines for melanoma and promising new therapies for the disease.

The Congress kicks off at the start of summer, June 21, to illustrate the key role of sun protection in avoiding melanoma. The timing also offers skin health experts an opportunity to remind the public that skin cancer can be prevented through careful following of sun protection tips.

"Melanoma is one of the few cancers where we know the most likely environmental cause and how best to prevent it - through reduced exposure to ultraviolet light," says dermatologist Michael Ming, MD, Director of the Pigmented Lesion Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. "Skin cancer is largely preventable, so if you are aware of the risk factors, you can avoid unnecessary exposure to the harmful ultraviolet light of the sun."

Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer. Upon diagnosis, it is usually treated by surgical removal of any tumors or lesions. Early detection is critical to surviving melanoma.

"Today, we have access to therapies that work well if the cancer is caught early, but we do not have much to offer after it is caught late," says Ming. "It is important for people to be aware of their exposure to sunlight and to avoid circumstances where they may get burned or even tanned - too much is not good for your skin health."

More information about melanoma and other skin cancers is available through local resources from the Abramson Cancer Center:

More information about the Foundation for Melanoma Research can be found on their website: www.foundationformelanomaresearch.org, including the story about Noreen O'Neill, the Philadelphia woman who founded the Foundation, and who died from melanoma in 2000.

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The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1973 as a center of excellence in cancer research, patient care, education and outreach. Today, the Abramson Cancer Center ranks as one of the nation's best in cancer care, according to US News and World Report, and is one of the top five in National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding. It is one of only 39 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Home to one of the largest clinical and research programs in the world, the Abramson Cancer Center has 275 active cancer researchers and 250 Penn physicians involved in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.





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