PHILADELPHIA – The Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania is establishing the Tara Miller Melanoma Center, which will focus on the accelerated development of novel therapies and improved clinical outcomes for patients with the deadliest form of skin cancer. The center is possible thanks to a generous gift from George and Debbie Miller in memory of their daughter, Tara, who passed away from melanoma in 2014. It also establishes the Tara Miller Professorship in Melanoma Research and Patient Care, ensuring Tara’s legacy will live on forever.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates more than 96,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the United States in 2019, while about 7,200 people are expected to die from the disease this year. Bringing together resources from across Penn Medicine, the Tara Miller Melanoma Center will support critical translational research, clinical initiatives, and patient education and outreach opportunities for this disease. The center will provide the melanoma program with the resources to pilot new ideas and develop novel concepts in the laboratory, hopefully leading to new clinical innovations.
“Tara left a lasting impression on everyone who had the privilege to know her, and now the research being done in her name will have lasting effects for patients far into the future. We feel honored and inspired that Tara’s name will forever be a part of our efforts to cure melanoma,” said Lynn M. Schuchter, MD, chief of Hematology-Oncology.
Tara Miller passed away from melanoma in October 2014 at the age of 29. Despite a challenging course of cancer treatments, Tara embodied her motto – “make the best of it” – with boundless energy. She was a passionate advocate for melanoma patients at Penn Medicine and beyond, inspiring those around her with her unimaginable strength and positivity while clearly articulating the importance of funding innovative melanoma research.
By establishing the Tara Miller Melanoma Center, George and Debbie Miller, as well as Tara’s sisters, Kristi and Lauren, continue their work on Tara’s behalf as champions for the Abramson Cancer Center and the melanoma program. All four members of the family have served as members of the Abramson Cancer Center’s Director’s Leadership Council and were recognized for their commitment to advancing melanoma research at Philly Fights Cancer – Round 3 in 2017.
“All of us at the Abramson Cancer Center remain proud and inspired to be so closely associated with Tara, and she’s a reminder to us to work as hard as we can every day to make a difference for our patients,” said Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Abramson Cancer Center.
Tara founded the Tara Miller Melanoma Foundation to raise funds for critical melanoma research to change the odds for patients. The foundation hosted its inaugural “Make the Best of It Bash” in Atlantic City in July 2014, only a few months before Tara passed away, raising $334,000 for research in the Abramson Cancer Center’s Melanoma Program. Subsequent events have raised more than $3 million over the past five years, and the Miller family covers all costs so that every dollar raised goes directly to research.
The Abramson Cancer Center will celebrate the establishment of the new center on May 6, 2019, which is marked as “Melanoma Monday” across the United States.
Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $7.8 billion enterprise.
The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $425 million awarded in the 2018 fiscal year.
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