The Skin Cancer Foundation Awards 2021 Research Grants

$125,000 in Funding Distributed to Early Career Investigators in Dermatology

New York, NY (May 11, 2021) — This spring, The Skin Cancer Foundation awarded a combined total of $125,000 in grants to three researchers in dermatology. The funds support pilot research projects related to the prevention, detection and treatment of skin cancer. Over the past 40 years, generous donors to The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Research Grants program have provided more than $2 million to more than 150 physicians and investigators launching worthy studies on skin cancer. Many of the grantees’ studies have led to important breakthroughs.

“With this grant, I will be able to gain research independence in the skin cancer field,” says Masaoki Kawasumi, MD, PhD, a 2021 grant recipient. “This is an important step to translate scientific discoveries into clinical practice for skin cancer patients and families.”

Every year, the Foundation receives proposals from dermatology residents, fellows and early career faculty members for one-year clinical studies to be conducted under the auspices of the dermatology departments of medical institutions in the United States. The applications received in 2021 covered a range of new ideas and technologies through studies on melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, immunotherapies, stem cell therapies and more.

Committee Chair David Polsky, MD, PhD, assembled a group of volunteer physicians to review the applications and discuss the merit of the work. (Committee members are chosen each year based on the applicant pool, and the review process is managed to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.) The committee is tasked with choosing just three recipients out of the many applications received.

Dr. Polsky says melanoma has recently gotten much more grant funding than other types of skin cancer, and that projects related to rarer skin cancers can be difficult to fund as well.

“Our program is unique in that it is focused on all types of skin cancer,” says Dr. Polsky. “It can be difficult for early career investigators to get their projects funded for basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancers.”

Harper Price, MD, a 2021 grant recipient, says her grant will fund research that will help fill a gap in an understudied area — the relationship between organ transplants and the risk of childhood skin cancer. “Our project will serve as the first of its kind to develop an educational intervention program for pediatric transplant patients and providers regarding sun safety and skin cancer risk and monitoring,” Dr. Price says. “We will also develop infrastructure to ensure all transplant patients at our institution will have access to yearly skin cancer screenings.”

Masaoki Kawasumi, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Division of Dermatology
University of Washington School of Medicine at South Lake Union
Project title:Mechanisms of Myc-Associated Super-Enhancer Formation in Melanoma and cSCC
Ashley Trenner Research Grant Award: $50,000
Funding provided by Karen and Bob Trenner

Neda Nikbakht, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Dermatology
Director, Cutaneous Lymphoma Clinic
Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology
Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia
Project title:Immunosuppressive Role of Toll-like Receptor 4 Signaling in Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma
Todd Nagel Memorial Research Grant Award: $50,000
Funding provided by Linda Nagel

Harper N. Price, MD
Division Chief, Division of Dermatology
Phoenix Children’s Hospital
Project title:Skin Cancer Education and Prevention in Pediatric Organ and Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Recipients: Developing a Skin Cancer Prevention Program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Marcia Robbins-Wilf Research Grant Award: $25,000
Funding provided by Marcia Robbins-Wilf, EdD

The 2021 Skin Cancer Foundation Research Grants Committee:

Committee Chair David Polsky, MD, PhD
Leonard H. Goldberg, MD
Aleksandar Sekulic, MD, PhD
Vijayasaradhi Setaluri, PhD
Henry K. Wong, MD, PhD

For more information about the Research Grants program, visit


About The Skin Cancer Foundation

The Skin Cancer Foundation saves and improves lives by empowering people to take a proactive approach to daily sun protection and the early detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. Since its inception in 1979, the Foundation has recommended following a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade and covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use. For more information, visit

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