Thanks to a generous gift from George and Debbie Miller in memory of their daughter Tara, the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) of the University of Pennsylvania has established the Tara Miller Melanoma Center. This new Center will support critical translational research, clinical initiatives, and education and outreach opportunities for patients with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The gift from the Millers also establishes the Tara Miller Professorship in Melanoma Research and Patient Care.
Tara Miller passed away from melanoma in 2014 at the age of 29. While in treatment at the Abramson Cancer Center, she was a passionate advocate for melanoma patients. She used her stalwart conviction—her motto was “make the best of it”—to found the Tara Miller Melanoma Foundation, which has raised more than $3 million for melanoma research in just over five years.
“From the moment we first met Tara, we knew she was family—and that we were part of her family,” said Robert H. Vonderheide, Director of the Abramson Cancer Center. “The Tara Miller Melanoma Center is critical for how we will make change.”
At the Center opening, Lynn M. Schuchter, chief of the Division of Hematology-Oncology at Penn Medicine and newly named Director of the Tara Miller Melanoma Center, recalled Tara as a bright, dedicated woman who did her research, understood the advances in melanoma treatment, and was determined to fight the disease. “It was a privilege to be her medical oncologist,” she said.
According to American Cancer Society estimates, more than 96,000 new instances of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States in 2019. With the resources of this new Center, researchers at Penn will be able to pilot new ideas and build on discoveries as they move toward innovative treatments for this cancer.
“This type of funding will really propel our long-standing melanoma program to reach new heights and be able to advance discoveries faster,” Schuchter noted.
The melanoma program at the Abramson Cancer Center has already made significant advances in fighting the disease. Recent research published in Nature Medicine found that a single dose of a PD-1 inhibitor before surgery can predict outcomes in melanoma patients. This is just the latest in discoveries at the ACC, including research on combining radiation therapy with immunotherapy treatment, and findings on how melanoma cells develop resistance to therapies.
“There is no better partnership for us than Penn,” said George Miller, Tara’s father. “The Center honors the extraordinary life she led and the incredible legacy that she left behind.”
The Tara Miller Melanoma Center at the Abramson Cancer Center will accelerate Penn’s work in translating innovative research into impactful treatments for the disease and support the University’s mission of revolutionizing health and advancing knowledge for good.