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Pittsburgh Melanoma Foundation Donates $85,000 Toward Melanoma Research at Allegheny Health Network

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The Pittsburgh Melanoma Foundation has given its biggest donation ever, $85,000, toward the research efforts of Allegheny Health Network (AHN) surgical oncologist Howard Edington, MD, and his team.

Dr. Edington and his colleagues are investigating the role that biofilms may play in causing the ulceration of tumors in melanoma patients, a development which predicts a poorer prognosis for the patient. Biofilms are communities of micro-organisms and the AHN team has identified 28 bacterial species within tumors and in their corresponding lymph nodes.

Dr. Edington’s team is also working with Carnegie Mellon University to develop novel imaging technologies to catch skin cancer at its earliest stages. AHN uses a procedure called lymph node mapping to help diagnose advanced cases of melanoma and certain squamous cell cancers.

The Pittsburgh Melanoma Foundation was founded and is co-directed by Jessica Rogowicz of Peters Township and Lauren Simko of Bethel Park. Rogowicz is a patient of Dr. Edington’s who was diagnosed with melanoma in 2007, when she was still in her 20s, and had a recurrence in 2011.  Now cancer-free, she is the mother of two and a high school teacher. Simko, who works as a pharmacist, lost her father, Joe Vavrek, to melanoma in 2010.

Rogowicz was a frequent user of tanning booths prior to her diagnosis, and now speaks publicly about her battle with melanoma in order to raise awareness and warn others about the dangers of tanning.

The donation was made possible by two successful fundraising events this summer – a 5K walk/run June 16 in South Park and Serve2Cure Sept. 15 at the Mt. Lebanon Tennis Center – as well as an unsolicited $50,000 donation from former Pittsburgh Pirate Andrew McCutchen and his wife, Maria.

“I was fortunate that my melanoma was found at an early stage, and also fortunate to be treated by someone as skilled and compassionate as Dr. Edington,” Rogowicz said. “We are very happy to make this donation toward Dr. Edington’s research, in hopes that every melanoma patient can look forward to a cancer-free future.”

Dr. Edington is an internationally recognized surgical oncologist who specializes in the surgical treatment of skin cancer. He has authored or co-authored more than 130 scientific articles, abstracts and book chapters, and delivered more than 100 scientific presentations and lectures at medical symposiums around the globe.

Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute physicians offer innovative approaches to common and rare skin cancers, with access to clinical trials and a personalized treatment plan geared toward curing the cancer while preserving as much healthy skin and tissue as possible.

“We are honored to receive this donation from the Pittsburgh Melanoma Foundation, a group that is doing tremendous work in the fight against melanoma, a disease that is very treatable if caught early,” Dr. Edington said. “Jessica and her team have also made a valuable contribution by raising awareness of factors that increase the risk of melanoma, most notably exposure to UV rays from the sun or from tanning beds.”

More information about the foundation is available at