Sanford-Burnham graduate student receives Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation Research Scholar Award

By Heather Buschman, Ph.D.
April 5, 2013

Congratulations to Giuseppina Claps, a student in the Sanford-Burnham Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, on receiving one of ten nationally competitive 2013 Research Scholar Awards from the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation (JMNMF)! These $10,000 grants support exceptional graduate student research in melanoma.

Claps conducts her graduate thesis work in the lab of Ze’ev Ronai, Ph.D., associate director of Sanford-Burnham’s National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and Scientific Director of the Institute’s La Jolla campus, who said, “We are proud that Giuseppina was selected for the prestigious JMNMF award and are certain that her work in basic mechanisms of melanoma will reflect on this honor.”

Ronai and Claps are seeking to better understand the underlying mechanisms that lead to melanoma and allow these tumors to resist treatment. Claps’ project focuses on a protein called ATF2. The Ronai lab has demonstrated how ATF2 switches on pro-melanoma systems. They’ve also figure out how it might be possible to switch back ATF2’s activity, so that it suppresses tumor formation. With this award, Claps will use mouse models of melanoma to establish the importance of ATF2 in a certain type of melanoma, those with BRAF mutations.

“I am honored to receive the JMNMF Research Scholar Award,” Claps said. ” Understanding the critical role ATF2 plays in melanoma will serve as paradigm for understanding fundamental processes underlying the development and progression of this tumor type. I believe my research will highlight new mechanisms and therefore lead to innovative therapeutic modalities for melanoma.”

The JMNMF is a nonprofit public charity founded in 2004 to foster melanoma education, advocacy, and research. Since then, the Foundation has become an international voice for melanoma prevention, detection, care, and cure.

“Our Foundation’s Research Scholar Awards are invaluable at the grassroots level, to specifically grow interest in melanoma research, at leading cancer research centers nationwide,” Regina Shannon Bodnar, JMNMF chair, said in the Foundation’s statement. “If we can attract the brightest young minds that are considering or are already within the nation’s cancer research pipelines to pursue a career in melanoma research, we’re that much closer to better understanding the disease, identifying the means for effective treatments and, most importantly, finding a cure for this deadly and increasingly prevalent disease.”

To learn more about the Sanford-Burnham Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, visit



Heather Buschman, Ph.D.
Scientific Communications Manager
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
Phone: (858) 795-5343

Gregory Safko
Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation
Phone: (410) 857-4890

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Heather Buschman, Ph.D.

Heather was an SBP Communications staff member.


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