Moffitt Receives $3 Million to Develop New Targeted Treatments for Rare Melanomas

TAMPA, Fla.  Moffitt Cancer Center has been awarded a four-year, $3 million grant from the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs to develop new treatments for rare melanomas, including uveal melanoma. The grant will fund two projects aimed at advancing targeted alpha-particle therapies.

Uveal melanoma is an extremely rare cancer of the eye. Fewer than 3,500 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year, and half of those patients will develop metastatic disease. There is only one approved drug to treat metastatic uveal melanoma, but it doesn’t work for all patients, and many develop a resistance to the treatment over time.

Researchers in Moffitt’s Donald A. Adam Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center of Excellence have developed a novel targeted alpha-particle therapy to treat uveal melanoma. Already being evaluated in a phase 1 clinical trial, the targeted alpha-particle therapy is a single injection that delivers a highly concentrated dose of radiation directly to the melanoma cells by targeting a protein found on the surface of those cells. This approach reduces toxicity to surrounding healthy tissues.

The first project of the grant will expand this research in two ways. The team, led by David Morse, Ph.D., will first launch a phase 2 trial to evaluate a multiple-injection cycle regimen of four doses, one every four weeks. Second, knowing that the targeted cell surface protein for their therapy is also seen in other rare melanomas, such as acral and mucosal, they will begin preclinical investigations to determine efficacy.

“Rare melanomas, like uveal melanoma, are highly aggressive, making the discovery of new therapies critical for this patient population. Targeted alpha-particle therapy shows great promise in treating these rare cancers,” said Morse, principal investigator and associate member of the Metabolism and Physiology Department at Moffitt.

The second project of the grant will focus on better personalizing targeted alpha-particle therapy. Because every patient is different and may require a different dosage of radiation, the researchers are developing an image-guided three-dimensional internal radiation dosimetry method that will allow them to trace where the alpha-particles (radiation) are being distributed within the body. These studies will include a phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate the imaging method.

About Moffitt Cancer Center
Moffitt is dedicated to one lifesaving mission: to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. The Tampa-based facility is one of only 56 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s scientific excellence, multidisciplinary research, and robust training and education. Moffitt’s expert nursing staff is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center with Magnet® status, its highest distinction. With more than 8,500 team members, Moffitt has an economic impact in the state of $2.4 billion. For more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488), visit, and follow the momentum on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube