Here at The Melanoma Fund, our core mission is to raise awareness of melanoma, how to prevent it, recognise the diagnostic signs and educate on the importance of early detection. To achieve this, in 2018 we organised Skin Health Clinics in the South East, working with the melanoma and skin cancer team at Queen Victoria Hospital and skin health experts at rtwskin in Tunbridge Wells.
Our final event this year was held at the beautiful Chartham Park Golf & Country Club in East Grinstead on the 13th August to thank the staff and their members for making us their club charity of 2018/19.
The event was gratefully sponsored by the Rotary Club of East Grinstead who are themselves a wonderful local charity, supporting local community events and causes. As well as opening up appointments to club members, we invited their friends and family and also the local people to pre-book private appointments.
The event format provided either a ten-minute skin check with one of our team of three melanoma surgeons who offered advice and spot checks for melanoma and other forms of skin cancer or a slot with a master pharmacist, who provided advice on sun protection and UV related skin damage.
Appointments were taken by 78 people with referral rates to GPs averaging at 25%, which proved how important this service is. Not only did we help detect skin problems early, we offered advice, aiming to make people think more carefully about the health of their skin and how to avoid problems.
Harry Townsend, the founder of the Melanoma Fund said “We could not have wished for a better outcome. Throughout the afternoon we had lots of one-to-one conversations with those who wanted to know more about melanoma and skin cancer, sun protection and what our charity does in the local community and beyond. In addition, we raised £350.00 from donations received from sales of Altruist SPF30 sunscreen.”
We would like to thank Chartham Park for hosting the day, our generous sponsors for making it possible, our team of medics who worked tirelessly and all those who attended this vital event.
For further information on the Melanoma Fund, to get involved in what we do or to help support our work visit www.melanoma-fund.co.uk.
This year has been an exciting and busy one for the Melanoma Fund. We shook up our internal structure, changing our working name from the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund to make our name easier to say! We increased the size of our Trustee board and armed ourselves with an updated logo, branding and website. Thankfully, we have retained our Chair, the unstoppable Harry Townsend, without whom this charity would not exist. Read more about Harry here.
We were invited to attend a wide number of patient and cancer focused panels and seminars, and again supported and attended the Melanoma Patient Conference, representing and cementing our place as one of the top melanoma charities in the UK. We retained our place on the Melanoma Taskforce and have reached out to other melanoma charities to increase our strength through unity.
Create national and community awareness
We successfully rolled out our Watch Your Back! sun protection for gardeners campaign for a third year, reaching an even wider audience, ensuring our messages are making a difference. We worked with 10 celebrity gardeners who promoted the message ‘Don’t be Ridiculous! – wear sunscreen’ featuring in 125 major garden centres.
We ran a national sunflower growing competition, generated funding for a Skin Health Clinic bus which visited six garden centres across Kent and Sussex, seeing over 1,500 people, promoting the importance of sun protection and early detection of melanoma, and referring 35% to their GPs. Our summary video can be viewed here
We dramatically grew our on-line support, received TV coverage of our work on the BBC – see here, and appeared on hundreds of supporters blogs and online media sites. We were recognised as having one of the top 5 melanoma blogs in the UK and a top rating YouTube channel, and have consistently kept this work up, despite being dependent on small budgets and one paid member of staff.
To top this off, we were approached by Jeff Morris at Chartham Park Golf Club to be their Club Charity 2018/19. At the time we never envisaged how this would lead to such amazing, conscience support. From raffles, auctions, club days, spinathons and a dragon boat racing team, the club is working relentlessly to raise as much as possible. To honour this work, we are pledging to put this donation to very good use which we know that clubs members will have full empathy with.
The Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code was created by the Melanoma Fund in 2014. It was, and remains, the only sun protection campaign, designed to support all those who work outdoors with children. The aim is to get those in charge to ‘Blow the Whistle on Sunburn’.
Partnered with the Youth Sports Trust, Association for Physical Education (AfPE), Child Protection in Sports Unit and sports coach UK, it is supported by over 120 national governing bodies of sport (NGBs) and a wide variety of overarching outdoor and coaching organisations.
This is not specifically a school sun protection campaign; this area is addressed and adequately supported by a number of schemes. The initiative is designed for children who spend a prolonged period of time in organised outdoor activity between March and October. This will be at holiday camps, club training, Outdoor camps, half term courses and those organised outdoor activities during the long school summer holidays that are growing in popularity due to working parents.
Due to resource issues, regrettably the campaign was not actively promoted or supported during 2017/2018 however, with the help of funds raised by Chartham Park, the aim is now to refresh the overall strategy and re-launch the campaign in Mid-March 2019, just before the spring holiday break.
The funds raised will help the charity pay for the resources to develop the new strategy, build a new website, create printed materials, communicate with the key supporters who have put their name to the campaign in past years and also to create new support and research new opportunities via a professional sports panel.
We believe that sun protection habits need to be created whilst young. We also believe that coaches and outdoor activity leaders are the ideal people to inspire children to do this. They also need to ensure that sun protection is not just on the safeguarding table, but included in their activity (sunscreen doesn’t work in kit bags).
Just one sunburn can triple the chances of developing melanoma and this is more often than not triggered by a sunburn in childhood. We believe that everyone deserves the right to grow up with healthy skin, but this starts with healthy habits and this is where, with the help of this donation we can make a difference.
To find out more view our Outdoor Kids video here.
So, to answer the question, what can a small charity achieve? We hope you will agree an awful lot, but only with the type of support that organisations like Chartham Park are willing to give. Maybe you have a business that could also do something to create a difference? Please contact Michelle, the CEO on 07989551046 or email@example.com, she would be delighted to hear from you!
We do hope you can all join us at the Skin Health Event at the club on the 11th August, kindly sponsored by The Rotary Club of East Grinstead. This would be a great time to come meet us and find out more about what we do and why we do it. We have the team from Queen Victoria Hospital offering skin checks and also rtwskin offering complexion analysis. We will be offering bottles of sunscreen for a small donation and lots of advice.
Having worked for big, blue chip organisations for over 30 years, I cannot tell you how proud I am to now work for a small melanoma charity that creates BIG impact, making a real difference to people’s health and lives. Never before have I held such passion for my work, felt so fulfilled or have I been more proud of the things I have helped this charity achieve.
Small but mighty!
The Melanoma Fund is a small national charity that raises awareness of melanoma, with just one paid member of staff, a hard-working Founder (Mr Harry Townsend) a team of amazing Trustees and a small handful of volunteers. In #smallcharityweek it’s vital that we all recognise the amazing work of charities like the Melanoma Fund, which shows the real impact small organisations can have, without the massive overheads that bigger charities are liable for.
In the last five years we have created two national campaigns; the Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code and Watch Your Back!, both raising awareness of the importance of sun protection to high risk groups. We have joined the Melanoma Taskforce; a parliamentary lobbying committee, provided support to various patient groups, funded effective melanoma research, worked with local authorities to raise awareness and teamed up with other charities to organise skin checks across the South East to help our mission of PROTECT, DETECT, PREVENT. And much more.
Success needs support
The more we reach out, the more we achieve… the more opportunities we find present themselves to us, as does the demand for the charity’s resources and in turn our financial demands. Unfortunately, being such a (very) small charity, we don’t have the marketing might to reach out for funding in the same way that big charities do, yet a relatively small increase in funds would make such a big difference.
Add up the hand-full of small melanoma dedicated charities in the UK (who are all doing incredible work in their own fields) and together we are together creating MASSIVE impact on this terrible disease, but without funding, we cannot survive.
In spite our size, Melanoma Fund has carved out a niche in its work in the UK and leads the way in terms of our campaigns which target people who are at high risk of developing skin cancer. This includes working with bigger organisations to get our messages across and seeking wider support, but this all takes resources.
The Melanoma Fund, and the countless other small charities in the UK who do great work, are always looking for support, whether as a volunteer, regular donor or for people to go out and challenge themselves in our name.
Get in touch
If you have been touched by melanoma and want to help us make a difference and support a charity that tells it as it is, why not find out more about what we do? Visit at www.melanoma-fund.co.uk or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are delighted to announce that our loyal supporters Swim 4 Tri are running their annual Lou Parker Open Water Charity Race Day again on the 15th September.
This event is run in memory of open water swimmer and friend of the club, Lou Parker who died of melanoma in 2010. The 4k course, set in Stubbers, Upminster, Essex is available to swim as an individual or as a relay. This is a relaxed event so swimmers can complete as much or as little as they want.
The event is always very popular, with SFT members and non-members, providing a scrumptious and well deserved BBQ breakfast after the final swimmer has finished the course, ensuring the race is not just fun but also memorable.
The event is designed to get as many people in the water as possible and also a timely reminder that sun protection is a vital part of all swimmers kit when the weather warms up.
The event is run by Keeley Bullock and her brother Dan who are dedicated to helping raise money for their chosen charity, the Melanoma Fund, helping raise awareness of sun protection and skin checking to all those who enjoy a healthy outdoor lifestyle.
Says Harry Townsend, founder of the Melanoma Fund; “Keeley and Dan are amazing people who consistently support us, showing not only loyalty to the charity but to their good friend who died tragically from this awful disease. We hope this event will not only encourage people get people fit, but raise awareness of melanoma and the importance of sun protectio at the same time.”
The club aims to raise funds for the charity via sale of tickets and BBQ takings. For full details on how to enter etc. click HERE
With the help of our supporters, the Melanoma Fund was able to support a melanoma microRNA biomarker project, run by the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and headed up by Prof. Sarah Newbury. We have been work closely with the team and here is their final report.
By Professor Sarah Newbury, Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS)
Melanoma remains the most aggressive form of skin cancer with an increasing incidence worldwide. Survival rates depend heavily on the stage of disease at the time of diagnosis. When detected in the early non-metastatic stages (I and II), melanoma has good prognosis with a 5-year survival rate of ~100% in stage I melanoma patients and 80%-90% in stage II melanoma patients, as thin local tumours are highly curable by surgery.
Unfortunately, recurrence is common and often results in progression to locally advanced melanoma and subsequently to metastatic melanoma (stages III and IV), with a 5 year survival rate of ~50% in stage III melanoma patients and 10-25% in stage IV melanoma patients. Therefore there is a pressing need to establish robust biomarkers that allow the identification of patients at high risk of metastatic recurrence after surgical removal of a non-metastatic melanoma.
Early detection will maximise the chances of patient survival, as there are now a number of treatment options available that are effective against certain subtypes of stages I, II and III melanoma.
Circulating microRNAs are emerging as promising non-invasive cancer biomarkers that can be detected from a blood sample. MicroRNAs are small non-coding nucleic acids that function in gene silencing and are often associated with cancer progression.
These microRNAs are stable in the circulating blood because they are encapsulated in small vesicles (exosomes) or are bound to protective proteins. Previous work carried out at the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation and the Brighton and Sussex Medical School identified 3 potential microRNA biomarkers that can distinguish Stage I/II from Stage III/IV melanoma, plus three potential reference controls.
Support from the Melanoma Fund
Generous funding from the Melanoma Fund provided us with the exciting opportunity to check and validate the microRNA biomarkers identified in these initial experiments. The technician employed on the grant, Sophie Mumford, used the serum of 20 healthy, 20 melanoma stage I/II and 20 melanoma stage III/IV donors, which were originally collected at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.
Sophie performed 2,034 careful experiments to validate these 3 potential biomarkers and 3 reference controls as well as checking 2 new potential biomarkers identified following the re-analysis of the original data and evaluating the effect of different extraction kits and experimental conditions.
Sadly, despite all this careful experimentation, we have not found any microRNA biomarkers which clearly and consistently distinguish between non-metastatic and metastatic melanoma. We are all deeply disappointed with this result. The circulating microRNA biomarker field is still in its infancy; therefore techniques are difficult and are not yet well established.
The techniques being used to detect microRNA biomarkers in serum have improved immensely since the start of this project and continue to improve, therefore if we started this project again, we would have much more likelihood of success. With this is mind, we thought that it would be very useful to provide an up-to-date review of the literature on circulating miRNA biomarkers in melanoma, using our experience to focus on the pre-analytical and analytical variables that challenge this field.
Interestingly, none of prognostic melanoma microRNA biomarkers published have used the rigorous normalisation procedures that are now required in the field. Therefore there are, as yet, no reliable circulating microRNA biomarkers which can distinguish metastatic from non-metastatic melanoma.
Despite our difficulties in identifying microRNA biomarkers for melanoma this time, we have been successful in providing a number of outputs for the Melanoma Fund. These include our monthly reports, invitations to speak at International Conferences, poster presentations at International conferences, grants and training.
These outputs are detailed below:
2013-2015: £20,000 for a BBSRC “Sparking Impact” Award to fund a post-doc, consumables, patent searches and market surveys. Title of project “Investigating the potential of microRNAs as biomarkers in malignant melanoma.”
2016-2017: £75,588 from Cancer Research UK (through the Experimental Cancer Medicines Centres “ECMC” Network) for a project over four centres (Universities of Leeds, Sussex, Cambridge and Newcastle on a project entitled “Standardisation of analysis and reporting of miRNA biomarkers in plasma from circulating blood. £17,896 (Co-PI: 24%) per centre, with Prof. Sue Burchill (Principal Applicant (28%), University of Leeds).
2017: £1395 from the University of Sussex Research Opportunities Fund to support two “Research Strengths in Cancer” Workshops. (Co-applicants: Dr George Giamas (University of Sussex) and Dr Mel Flint (University of Brighton)).
Presentation of research at International Conferences:
Smalley, S., Gilleard, O., Aspden, J., Pacifico, M., Banwell, P., Metcalfe, A.D., Newbury, S.F. and Martin, Y. microRNAs as biomarkers for melanoma. Translation UK, Leicester, July 2014. Poster presentation.
Smalley, S., Gilleard, O., Aspden, J., Pacifico, M., Banwell, P., Metcalfe, A.D., Newbury, S.F. and Martin, Y. (2014) microRNAs as prognostic biomarkers for melanoma progression. Poster presented at the conference Non-coding RNA – From basic mechanisms to cancer, Heidelberg, Germany, June 2014. Poster presentation.
Smalley, S., Gilleard, O., Aspden, J., Pacifico, M., Banwell, P., Metcalfe, A.D., Martin, Y. and Newbury, S.F microRNAs as prognostic biomarkers for melanoma progression. BSMS Integrated Health Care Research Day. November 2014. Poster presentation.
Jones, C.I., Zabolotskaya, M.V., Smalley, S.K., Pashler, A.L., Caserta, S., Gilleard, O., Pacifico, M., Metcalfe, A.D., Martin, Y. and Newbury, S.F. “Identification of microRNAs for use as prognostic biomarkers in myeloma, melanoma and sepsis.” Circulating biomarkers 2015 Glasgow conference. Glasgow, UK. October 2015. Poster presentation.
Invitations to give research talks at International conferences
March 2016: Invited to present our work on microRNA biomarkers at BSMS to the Health and Life Sciences Networking Event (10/3/16). This has led to a number of new links with Industrialists who are likely to be helpful in facilitating Industrial funding.
October 2016: Invited by the conference organiser, Dr Ed Quazi, to be a guest speaker at the Circulating Biomarkers conference at Abertay University, Dundee, Scotland.
February, 2018: Invited by the conference organiser, Cerlin Roberts of Oxford Global, to be a guest speaker at the 13th Annual Biomarkers Congress in Manchester, UK.
Sophie Mumford has increased her expertise in the cancer biomarker field and is eager to continue her work in Cancer Research by carrying out a Ph.D.
Sarah Smalley increased her expertise in analysis of circulating biomarkers in melanoma and is now working in a Biomarkers company in the U.S.A.
Amy Pashler increased her expertise in analysis of circulating biomarkers in melanoma and is now completing her PhD in cancer.
Five reports detailing the progress on our work.
Burchill, S., Droop, A., Jones, C. I., Brownhill, S., Amankwatia, E., Prokoph, N. Viprey, V., Thorne, J., Hughes, T., Towler, B.P., Pashler, A., Murray, M., Greystoke, A. and Newbury, S.F. A systematic review of the methodologies used in the detection and analysis in circulating microRNAs in cancer: recommendations for good practice. Nature methods (in prep).
Mumford, S., Towler, B.P., Pashler, A.L., Gilleard, O., Metcalfe, A.D., Martin, Y. and Newbury, S.F. Circulating microRNA biomarkers in melanoma: tools and challenges in personalised medicine. (to be submitted to Biomolecules)
Celebrity gardeners are getting behind a national campaign, using humour to help fight melanoma. David Domoney, Adam Frost and David Stevens will all appear dressed up looking ‘ridiculous’ in a campaign urging us all to think twice about our sun protection habits.
Watch Your Back! – launched in 2016 by the Melanoma Fund – specifically targets men over 50 who are the least likely to cover up, but are most likely to die from the effects of excessive sun exposure. The message is; ‘don’t be ridiculous, remember sun protection when out in the garden this summer’.
Men and melanoma
Skin cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK and melanoma is the most dangerous type. It is the fastest growing cancer in men and the second fastest in women, with men 70% more likely to develop the disease, typically on their backs and in areas that are hard to spot, making the warning signs easier to miss, leading to a later diagnosis, leading to higher death rates.
Why raise awareness?
Melanoma rates in the UK have more than quadrupled over the last 30 years, however many of us still forget to protect, check skin for signs of change or know what to look out for. This may explain why death rates from melanoma are higher in the UK than in Australia or New Zealand, both of which have the highest incidence in the world.
Harry Townsend, founder of the Melanoma Fund says; “Sun protection campaigns can sound like broken records. We all know the facts, but many of us still lack a regular skin care habit and men in particular dislike applying sunscreen, so we have decided to give it to them straight; don’t be ridiculous!
Skin health clinic bus tour
The Melanoma Fund is organising a bus tour of major garden centres in the South East during May and June. Surgeons from the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead and dermatologists from RTWSkin in Tunbridge Wells will offer FREE pre-booked appointments for skin checking and skin health analysis.
The ridiculous sunflower growing competition
Major garden centres will be urging customers to grow the tallest or biggest sunflower in the UK. They will be retailing packs of the ‘ridiculous’ seeds for a £1 donation to the charity. Prizes include Landmann BBQ’s and a year’s supply of Altruist sunscreen.
Campaign ambassadors; Alan Titchmarsh, Charlie Dimmock, Andy Sturgeon, Charlie Dimmock, Joe Swift, Adam Frost, David Domoney, Anne Swithinbank and Toby Buckland have all agreed to provide their personal tips on growing giant blooms.
Alan Titchmarsh says; “This approach may appear light-hearted, but the message is serious. Sunburn can not only triple the risk of melanoma, it looks terrible, so look after your skin, whatever your age.”
Watch Your Back! is partnered with the Garden Centre Association, the Professional Gardeners Guild and The National Allotment Society. For further details visit www.watchyourback.co.uk from the 1st May.
1. Campaign logo in Hi Res on request
2. Campaign launches on-line and in stores from May 1st 2018.
3. For media enquiries, contact Michelle Baker at email@example.com or call on 07989551046
4. Quotes and interviews with all gardening ambassadors and organisations are available on request.
5. For a full list of participating garden centres visit www.watchyourback.co.uk