By Fabian V. Filipp, UC Merced
New research published yesterday by council members of the International Federation of Pigment Cell Societies (IFPCS), the Pan-American Society for Pigment Cell Research (PASPCR), and the Melanoma Prevention Working Group (MPWG) in three landmark articles in Pigment Cell and Melanoma Research, Cancer and the Journal of Translational Medicine herald the next phase in our battle against skin cancer and pigment disorders. The panel of experts and authors included a multidisciplinary team from over 30 cancer centers in Europe and the U.S.
UV damage of melanocytes gives rise to deadly melanoma
Accelerated by recent successes in immunotherapy and genomic sequencing, we are just starting to discover the wealth and breadth of the field in melanocyte and melanoma research. The skin-coloured pigment in our skin is produced by melanocytes, designed to absorb dangerous UV radiation. A life-threatening form of skin cancer, melanoma, arises when pigment-producing melanocytes undergo cancerous transformation.
Lack of pigment production in albinism patients, patched loss of pigmentation called vitiligo, or on the other end of the spectrum, post-inflammatory- hyperpigmentation called melasma, and prevention of the diseases are on the frontlines of dermatology and pigment cell research identified by a panel of world-leading experts in the work entitled Frontiers in pigment cell and melanoma research published in the journal Pigment Cell and Melanoma Research. The work challenges the field by addressing provoking questions in melanoma immunotherapy, cancer systems biology, medical and surgical oncology, pigment biophysics, and precision prevention of skin diseases like melanoma and albinism.
In a joint effort, the pigment cell research community tackles timely aspects of big data science across international boundaries, health care reforms, bioethical considerations, health disparity among underserved minorities, and precision medicine based on our individuality.
“A key realization is that successes in immunotherapy and the translational arena of melanoma need to be duplicated in other key areas of pigment cell research, including vitiligo, melasma, albinism, and other pigmentary diseases.”
Solidarity of the international pigment cell community with people with albinism
When genetic mutations affect the production of the melanin pigment, people encounter partial or complete loss of pigmentation of their skin, eyes and hair. “Albinism is a rare genetically inherited condition that has unusually high prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa and some and some Native American groups,” author and President of the International Federation of Pigment Cell Societies, Professor Prashiela Manga, New York University said. In developing countries, people with albinism may not have access to healthcare specialists, sunscreen, or protective clothes. Sadly, patients with albinism in Africa face a humanitarian crisis stemming from a lack of access to resources and an alarming increase in ritualistic murders of people with albinism. “The united pigment cell community stands in solidarity and supports patients suffering from albinism, leaving a unique footprint in the field of pigment cell biology,” author and federate Secretary Professor Lluis Montoliu, National Centre of Biotechnology, Spain said. Montoliu is the 2018 recipient of the Spanish Association of Scientists Plaque of Honor for his research in the field of genomic regulation and the development of animal models of rare diseases.
An international forum that embraces diversity
For nearly three quarters of a century on a triannual basis, the International Federation of Pigment Cell Societies has hosted the International Pigment Cell Conference (IPCC), thereby creating a major vehicle to promote worldwide scientific interchange for basic and clinical investigators who study pigment cell function in disease and development. The federation promotes a vibrant interchange among leading basic and clinical researchers working on leading-edge aspects of melanocyte biology and disease. A synergy of complementary approaches will yield the next breakthroughs and include genomics, epigenomics, biomarkers, systems biology, precision bench-to-bedside approaches, immunotherapy, technology-guided surgery, epidemiology, pigment biophysics, and ancestry research. The international team of authors, including Spain’s Professor Lluis Montoliu identified challenges and advances in the treatment, diversity, and diagnosis of major skin disease, published in the Journal of Translational Medicine. The work further provides an historic perspective of the involvement of research societies around pigmented cells.
Today marks not only the release of the Nobel price and other major research findings, it is also the launch of the international Year of German-American Friendship. The project German-U.S. Science Alliance on Precision Medicine and Cancer Prevention at the University of California is part of the Deutschlandjahr USA 2018/19—Year of German-American Friendship funded by the Goethe-Institute, Washington, DC and the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, Germany.
Collaborative team science as exemplified by the International Federation of Pigment Cell Societies acknowledges the molecular foundation of diversity and pigmentation, strengthening global bridges between American and European researchers. Across the pond, the University of California, Merced and the Institute of Computational Biology, at the Technical University of Munich, Germany are working closely together on a joint project to develop next-generation technologies of data modeling to facilitate our understanding of genome-wide profiles in tissue aging and upon carcinogenic transformation.
In 2018, for the first time, the Annual meeting of the Pan-American Society for Pigment Cell Research will host a joint conference with the Montagna Symposium on the Biology of the Skin and entitled Melanoma to Vitiligo: The Melanocyte in Biology and Medicine at Glenedan Beach, OR commencing October 17-22, 2018. In 2020, the next International Pigment Cell Conference will be hosted in Yamagata, Japan from July 18-21, 2020 strategically positioned before the opening of the next Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. The title and focus of the XXIV triennial IPCC will be Integration of Basic Science and Clinical Practice in Pigment Cell Biology.