Skinformation - June 2013

Skinformation - June 2013

A Message from the Chair

Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D.

Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D.

Hello! I am pleased to be serving you as the new Chair of the OHSU Department of Dermatology. The welcome I have already received in the few brief opportunities I’ve had to meet community physicians and others from the area has been so warm and encouraging it has reinforced my confidence that I made the right decision in moving my family to Portland.

I am looking forward to July when I will fully transition to Oregon and begin focusing my attention on building on the strengths of our department and expanding OHSU’s program in melanoma care and research. My specialized area of expertise is in cutaneous genetics, with an emphasis on melanoma genetics and prevention, and Oregon’s very high incidence rate of melanoma, given the relatively temperate and cloudy environment, inspires numerous testable hypotheses to explain the pattern. Indeed, one of my primary objectives as the new Director of the developing Melanoma Program at Knight Cancer Institute is to help build a world class program to tackle this cancer in Oregon.

Part of the attraction for me to OHSU was leading the development of this program, given the exciting expansions within the Knight Cancer Institute, led by Brian Druker, M.D. His vision of establishing personalized cancer care, rooted in basic and translational science and extending directly into clinical trials and care, is an ideal environment for developing young scientists and recruiting additional expertise that we will need. He has recruited a number of talented senior investigators such as Joe Gray, Ph.D., and Lisa Coussens, Ph.D., who are rapidly building a critical mass of scientists poised to accomplish remarkable things together, as well as collaboration with Intel, an analytical powerhouse. In addition, the CLIA/CAP-certified Knight Diagnostic Laboratories, led by Christopher Corliss, M.D., Ph.D., is now offering advanced molecular diagnostics, such as FISH and exome/genome sequencing to patients and is incorporating cutting-edge research into the testing pipeline. Clearly, this is a dynamic and exciting time in our era of molecular medicine, and I feel strongly that we can develop a program that helps to raise the bar for melanoma care worldwide.

As Chair I plan to enhance the culture of science in the department by building on historic departmental strengths in science and clinical care brought about by Walter Lobitz, Jon Hanifin, and Frances Storrs – all recipients of the prestigious Masters in Dermatology award. In addition to bringing my own clinical and research interests in melanoma and genetics to OHSU, I will be emphasizing the growth of specialty teams in medical, surgical and pediatric dermatology. This emphasis will include support of an already vigorous atopic dermatitis program led by Jon Hanifin, M.D., and Eric Simpson, M.D., a translational psoriasis program involving Ben Ehst, M.D., Ph.D., Molly Kulesz-Martin, Ph.D., and Yuangang Liu, Ph.D., and an autoimmune bullous disease program led by Lynne Morrison, M.D., and supported by new recruit Nicole Fett, M.D.

Our pediatric dermatology team, led by Alfons Krol, M.D., with Sabra Leitenberger, M.D., and Julianne Mann, M.D., operates as a multi-disciplinary team with a special emphasis on vascular disorders in collaboration with members of Otolaryngology, Interventional Radiology, Neuro-Interventional Radiology and Plastic Surgery. A new multidisciplinary melanoma clinic is also planned and the pigmented lesion team will be collaborating with imaging experts Steve Jacques, Ph.D., and Joe Gray to evaluate new skin imaging technologies. I am already actively pursuing recruitment of a molecular dermatopathologist to expand our current team, led by Clif White, M.D., and Kevin White, M.D., which will enhance our capacity to perform molecular and genetic tests on dermatologic samples. This will also synergize with a new primary melanoma tissue bank that should begin collection in the next year. New educational initiatives for laser therapy and additional clinical trials are being considered by the surgical team, including former chair Neil Swanson, M.D., and Anna Bar, M.D., along with new recruit, Justin Leitenberger, M.D.

These various clinical programs will benefit from access to a rapidly enlarging clinical trials program, led by Simpson, which will ultimately serve as a resource to support a full–spectrum of trials ranging from investigator-initiated phase I to industry-supported phase III studies. These teams will collaborate with active, ongoing research in keratinocyte and melanocyte biology and immunology within our basic science group, led by Molly Kulesz-Martin, Ph.D. Taken together, the department houses a rich resource for budding clinical and basic science trainees and will be a major strength for recruiting new academicians.

I am also eager to support young investigators to explore and contribute to the field of genetics in dermatology. Perhaps as never before, the investigation of rare genetic skin disorders has the potential to move the field forward. This capacity ranges from an almost pure basic scientific effort to identify novel genes (and their mechanisms of action) to clinical trials, where personalized therapeutics can be considered and developed through orphan drug programs. I have personally led an effort with pachyonychia congenita, a monogenic disorder of keratins, in which we were able to move from the identification of a potent and specific siRNA to a proof-of-concept, Phase Ib clinical trial. This is a successful model that I hope to emulate in our department to advance therapies and personalized approaches for rare and common skin disorders.

Reaching all of these goals will take time, but I am confident that the foundation of our success is in place. Our existing and incoming faculty, bolstered by the promising collaboration within the Knight Cancer Institute, are poised to be extraordinary resources for doctors and patients in Oregon and beyond. I look forward to opportunities to meet our alumni, affiliate faculty and community providers and to hearing about ways that we can mutually provide the best of dermatologic care for Oregon’s citizens.