Nov 25, 2019 9:00 AM


Sheri Holmen, PhD

The Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) recently presented Sheri Holmen, PhD, with the prestigious Estela Medrano Memorial Award. Holmen is a melanoma researcher at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) and a professor of surgery at the University of Utah (U of U). This award was created in honor of the late Estela Medrano, a leader in melanoma research. The Estela Medrano Award is given annually to a woman who has made major contributions in the fight against melanoma.

“Dr. Sheri Holmen is an outstanding researcher, a dedicated mentor, a valued colleague and collaborator, and a leader in advancing melanoma research at HCI,” says Martin McMahon, PhD, HCI senior director of preclinical translation and professor of dermatology at the U of U. “She has contributed with distinction to a deeper understanding of melanoma progression and therapy, with a special emphasis on one of the most lethal aspects of the disease, that of brain metastasis. Because of her passion and commitment to melanoma, she is a very worthy recipient of the Society for Melanoma Research’s Estela Medrano Award.”  

Holmen received this recognition for research that improves our understanding of the mechanism by which some melanoma tumors spread to the brain. The targets they identified within these aggressive cancer cells are being treated with medicine that can be quickly translated to the clinic. Holmen keeps working to further the research in treating melanoma and other cancers that don’t generally respond to conventional therapies.

“I am deeply honored to receive the Estela Medrano award,” says Holmen. “Dr. Medrano was a rigorous scientist who contributed tremendously to the fields of melanoma and pigment cell biology. The passion she displayed for her work, her devotion to trainees, and her unwavering collegiality are an inspiration and all attributes I aspire to achieve.”

Holmen co-leads the Melanoma Disease Center at HCI, a collection of medical doctors, laboratory researchers, and population researchers who collaborate to advance translational research in melanoma. She was recently named the inaugural holder of the Karen H. Huntsman Presidential Endowed Chair at the U of U.

The award was presented this week at the SMR Congress in Salt Lake City, an event that allows melanoma researchers and clinicians to present new data on treatment of this disease. In addition to the award presented to Holmen, HCI researchers who presented at the meeting included Allie Grossmann, MD, PhD, HCI melanoma researcher and assistant professor of pathology at the U of U, and David Kircher, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Holmen Lab at HCI. The meeting also highlighted preliminary results of a clinical trial investigating the effectiveness of a new therapy for melanoma. The trial was conducted at a number of sites, including HCI. The HCI trial is overseen by John Hyngstrom, MD, HCI melanoma surgeon and professor of surgery at the U of U.

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