Benjamin will use the award to investigate the mechanisms that melanoma cells use to spread to distant sites throughout the body. This process, known as metastasis, is the primary cause of melanoma-related death. Through real-time imaging in a transparent strain of zebrafish, Benjamin hopes to discover exactly how metastasizing cancer cells manage to move out of the bloodstream and form new tumors at metastatic sites. In particular, he is interested in understanding the roles that certain "normal" immune cells play in helping cancer cells accomplish metastatic spread.
The applicant pool for the 2013 Research Scholar Awards included 44 of the country’s most promising young melanoma researchers and 28 prominent cancer centers. JMNMF Chair Regina Shannon Bodnar praised the research contributions of Benjamin and the other award winners, saying, "If we can attract the brightest young minds... 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.”