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Nationally Regarded Melanoma Research Advocate and Founder, President of AIM at Melanoma, Val Guild, Dies

Nationally Regarded Melanoma Research Advocate and Founder, President of AIM at Melanoma, Val Guild, Dies
San Rafael, CA, May 24, 2020 --( It is with profound sadness that AIM at Melanoma announces the death of its Founder and President, Valerie Guild, on May 21, 2020 from complications of ovarian cancer.

“Val was an inspiration and visionary leader, for our staff, the research community, and countless patients and families in the melanoma world,” said Alicia Rowell, Vice President of AIM. “She led AIM with intelligence, humor, integrity and passion. We deeply mourn this loss.”

When Valerie Guild lost her beloved 26-year-old daughter Charlie to melanoma in 2003, she vowed to help find the cure for the disease and founded The Charlie Guild Melanoma Foundation—which later became AIM at Melanoma—as the vehicle to do so. Under Val’s leadership, AIM at Melanoma has grown to be a global foundation that, in her own words, tackles the “hard stuff”—projects that are deemed critical for progressing research but also considered too difficult to accomplish.

A defining moment of Val’s career came in 2004, when she announced plans to form the International Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium, a fully annotated primary melanoma tissue biorepository that makes primary tissue and its respective annotated data available to researchers worldwide. While some institutions may individually collect primary tissue, there has never been a collaboration of this kind, with the goal being 500+ samples accompanied by all of the patients’ (depersonalized) medical history and prospective follow-up. After more than 15 years working to accomplish this goal, the first site opened in 2019, and at the time of her death, four of the six institutions are open and the final two very close to opening.

In 2006, Guild launched the International Melanoma Working Group, the first and only global melanoma think tank comprising leading melanoma investigators from around the world and pharmaceutical scientists, all sitting at the same table. The group is focused on accelerating the discovery of new, more effective treatments.

Most recently, Val and AIM have announced the formation of the Melanoma International Collaboration for Adaptive Trials (MICAT), the first and only global, adaptive, platform trial for melanoma.

Guild also tackled the “hard stuff” related to legislation, education, and advocacy. In 2007, Guild helped obtain the first Department of Defense grant for melanoma and skin cancer research in the amount of $4 million, funding that has continued to this day to provide support to the melanoma research community. Val established relationships with lawmakers in almost every state, earning their respect and at the same time never hesitating to make demands, while working to ban minors from using indoor tanning devices. Nearly half our states have restrictive bans on indoor tanning for minors.

Under Guild’s leadership, the AIM website was created and launched, filling an enormous need in the melanoma community for accurate and thorough information on the disease. She oversaw the creation of several spin-off websites, including one for oncology health care providers focused on improving treatment for melanoma patients, another for all oncology professionals focused on improving immunotherapy care for all oncology patients, and a third website and organization for patients with nonmelanoma skin cancers, the Skin Cancer Education & Research Foundation.

She was a widely known and respected advocate for patients and advisor to government agencies and industry. She served on several advisory panels, working groups, and committees, including among them the FDA, NCCN, SWOG, and ECOG.

Val had the pleasure of working side-by-side with her daughter, AIM’s Executive Director, Samantha Guild, for the last 12 years. Sam will assume the role of President of AIM at Melanoma.

Val’s great joy was her family. In addition to her husband, Arthur, she is survived by her daughters Alexis and Sam and her two grandchildren.

Please visit AIM at Melanoma's Valerie Guild's Tribute Page.

About The AIM at Melanoma Foundation:
Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States and worldwide. It’s one of the most complex forms of cancer and has the most mutations of all solid cancers. Founded in 2004, AIM at Melanoma is a global foundation dedicated to finding more effective treatments and, ultimately, the cure for melanoma while improving the lives of those it affects. AIM’s global research initiatives include The International Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium, The Melanoma International Collaboration for Adaptive Trials, and the International Melanoma Working Group. AIM at Melanoma provides education, connection to resources and opportunities for meaningful engagement to help patients and caregivers/families better face the challenges of melanoma.
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