We’d be the first to admit: We talk a lot about skin cancer and how to prevent it. Most dermatologists do. But it’s something that we’re especially passionate about because our dermatologist founder, Dennis Gross, MD, began his career as a melanoma researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. (Cool fact: Immunotherapy Dr. Gross helped develop is still used in melanoma treatment today.) While now he gets to funnel his passion for research into product development for Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, finding a cure for melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) has never been far from our founder’s mind. For that reason, we’re proud to announce that we’ve made a $50,000 donation to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to help fund a new study to develop an engineered T cell therapy for metastatic melanoma.
How this study is different
As much as sun exposure and skin cancer are often mentioned in the same breath, UV rays aren’t to blame for all occurrences of skin cancer (just most). Over the past decade, treatment for melanoma has improved by leaps and bounds. Today, 60 percent of melanoma patients respond favorably to combination immunotherapy — the gold standard for treating this type of cancer. However, that leaves 40 percent of patients for whom combination immunotherapy is not successful. Typically, those are people whose melanoma has developed in a non-exposed area of skin (such as the buttocks) or who have highly melanated skin naturally (yes, people of color can develop skin cancer).
The research Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare is helping to fund is developing treatment specifically for this 40 percent. Scientists at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center are engineering T cells to target a specific molecule on melanoma cells. (Quick refresher on T cells: They’re a type of white blood cell that are part of the immune system. There are two major kinds of T cells — “killer” and “helper.” Killer T cells are cytotoxic, meaning they kill other cells infected by viruses, as well as cancer cells. The T cells researchers are now working on would train the T cell’s cytotoxicity on a melanoma cell and — theoretically — destroy it.) If successful, this study would be the next step in introducing a viable melanoma treatment option for those for whom combination immunotherapy hasn’t worked.
“Like many doctors, a main reason I joined the medical profession was the desire to help people. Research — and the life-saving discoveries that result from it — benefit a great many people. For me, that was a primary motivator in beginning my career in a laboratory, not an office. Today, the lab I spend my time in develops products, not cancer cures, but that hasn’t dimmed my belief that committed scientists can find effective strategies to prevent, control, and ultimately cure cancer. As an alumnus of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, I’m honored to support the ground-breaking melanoma research being done there, including this engineered T cell study.” — Dr. Dennis Gross
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