Like all of the moon shots, the melanoma effort is deeply involved in learning from patients by analyzing tumors and blood samples and developing creative clinical trials to treat the disease.
But the first accomplishment came in prevention.
Surgical and medical oncologists, scientists, behavioral scientists and governmental relations experts were among those who worked together to achieve a state ban on tanning bed use by minors, which took effect September 2013.
“We’ve embraced and fostered multidisciplinary planning and practice in our clinics for decades,” says Melanoma Moon Shot co-leader Jeffrey Gershenwald, M.D., professor in Surgical Oncology. “Now some of our moon shots projects span well beyond clinical departments to academic departments, prevention and non-academic departments. That’s a new approach, a supercharged version of MD Anderson’s collaborative strengths.”
The moon shot’s crucial role was to provide information on melanoma, its connection to UV light exposure and the impact of indoor tanning on melanoma risk. MD Anderson teamed with a broad coalition of groups to support the legislation. Gershenwald, Ellen Gritz, Ph.D., chair of Behavioral Science, Mary Tripp, Ph.D., instructor in Behavioral Science, and Mark Moreno and Wesley Duncan of Governmental Relations were instrumental in the effort.
Texas became the fourth state to ban the use of tanning beds by those under the age of 18. Now, Gershenwald notes, 11 states have enacted similar laws, and the momentum continues to build.
In May, the FDA upgraded indoor tanning lamps and UV lights to moderate-risk devices, which require a black-box warning that the products should not be used by people under 18 years of age, and other regulatory measures.
“The time is now to double-down on our efforts to educate everyone, particularly our youth, about the dangers of UV exposure from the sun and from tanning beds,” Gershenwald says.