Skin Cancer Center Expands Advanced Treatment Options
The skin cancer team already offers innovative treatment options, including Mohs micrographic surgery, photodynamic (“blue light”) therapy, and coordinated care for organ transplant patients and others at high risk for skin cancer. Highly regarded experts in dermatology, transplant dermatology, dermatopathology, hematology and oncology, oculoplastic surgery, otolaryngology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, surgical oncology and radiation oncology deliver a depth of care unique to the Skin Cancer Center.
Stefan Schieke, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin dermatologist, is part of the collaborative team delivering the best treatment tailored to each patient. Along with other team members, he helped establish new multidisciplinary clinics for melanoma and skin lymphoma patients as well as new clinical trials. A former research fellow at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Schieke has studied rare skin cancers, including cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, and recently brought his expertise to the highly specialized skin cancer team.
“Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma patients require dermatologists and hematologist/oncologists to work closely together,” Dr. Schieke said. “So, we started a multidisciplinary clinic for skin lymphoma patients. They can see both specialists in one visit – more convenient for patients; better for care coordination.”
A similar multidisciplinary clinic has been established for patients with melanoma, another aggressive form of skin cancer. “This is important, especially now, because four new drugs are available, two of them extending survival for the first time.” Dr. Schieke said. “But, they can have significant skin side effects. The oncologist prescribing the drugs and the dermatologist managing the side effects need to collaborate closely.”
The Skin Cancer Center offers patients a number of clinical trials related to new drugs and other treatments, as well as the biology and genetics of cancer cells. “One example is a drug to treat patients with skin lymphomas. It inhibits the signaling pathway we know is important in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma,” Dr. Schieke said. “A signaling pathway is part of what tells the cancer cells to grow on a molecular level.”
Studies like this are known as investigator-initiated clinical trials, because they originate from a researcher’s own lab data. They are an important step in the translational research process. A clinical trial is anticipated that will study a drug that can be applied to the skin to block specific cellular signaling for patients with earlier stage skin lymphoma.
“Going from the lab to the patient is one way we translate research into better patient care,” Dr. Schieke said. “We also take tissue samples back to the lab to determine how the drug is working. If it’s not working, we want to know why. In essence, we take translational research from the bench to the bedside and back.”