Plenary explores treatments, technologies

Henry W. Lim, MD

The Plenary is always a highlight of the Summer Meeting. Plan to attend from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Friday in Grand Ballroom East. The session will feature five lecturers as well as the President’s Address presented by Henry W. Lim, MD.

Awakening a giant

Pearl E. Grimes, MD

Vitiligo is a devastating disease that affects the pigmentation and psyches of its victims, who have had virtually no treatment options. That is changing with research into the genetic causes of the disease, which is opening the door to several new treatments. Pearl E. Grimes, MD, will explain the research in the Everett C. Fox, MD Memorial Award and Lectureship, “Vitiligo, the Big Sleeper: From Fallacies and Frustration to New Discoveries.”

“The big sleeper has awakened,” Dr. Grimes said. “We have drugs that are being tested in phase 2 and phase 3 studies, raising hope moving forward. I’m happy to be on board and be part of this exciting time in the science of vitiligo as the story unfolds.”

Terrence Keaney, MD

PRP: Hype or hope?
Many medical treatments are touted as breakthroughs that could greatly improve the lives of patients suffering from a variety of diseases, but few actually match their promotion. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a treatment now being used off-label to treat androgenic alopecia and chronic wounds, and for skin rejuvenation.

“PRP is an emerging therapy in dermatology and medicine in general. There is a lot of promise behind it, but the scientific data is still evolving,” said Terrence Keaney, MD, who will discuss the future of PRP in his lecture, “Platelet-Rich Plasma: Hype or Hope?” “I want to break it down from a dermatologic perspective. I want to talk about the potential for this treatment based on the existing data and if the excitement around it is justified.”

Marta Van Beek, MD, MPH

The burden of skin disease

The Academy recently released “The Burden of Skin Disease in the United States,” an update to its 2004 study. The new study examines the economic impact of 24 diseases and it will be reviewed in “The Burden of Skin Disease: Implications for Our Specialty.”

“The data from this project demonstrates that skin disease affects an increasing part of the U.S. population, with significant economic consequences for both patients and society,” said Marta Van Beek, MD, MPH, a member of the AAD’s Burden of Skin Disease Work Group. “As our population ages and skin disease becomes even more prevalent, we need to think about how we can deliver care to more people in a more efficient manner so everyone has access.”

Michael C. Milone, MD, PhD

Therapy for B-cell mediated diseases
Adoptive cellular therapy has been used as a therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and lymphomas. It modifies the T-cells of patients outside the body and returns them to the body to target B-cells linked to the disease. The technology is now being studied to target cells that cause the autoimmune blistering disease pemphigus vulgaris. These advances will be presented in “Genetically Engineered T-Cell Therapy for B-Cell Mediated Diseases.”

“We have started work to specifically target B-cells that produce autoantibodies that attack cells and cause autoimmune disease,” said speaker Michael C. Milone, MD, PhD, a pioneer in adoptive cellular therapy. “Pemphigus vulgaris is a disease where individuals make autoantibodies that target desmoglein molecules. They are part of the ‘glue’ that holds cells in your skin together. When you make these antibodies, you disrupt those junctions between cells and people get blisters.”

Samuel H. Sternberg, PhD

Guest speaker: Samuel H. Sternberg, PhD
For many years, researchers have dreamed of modifying genes to treat diseases caused by genetic mutations. CRISPR-Cas9 is a new technology that enables biochemists to edit defective genes inside cells. The story of that promising technology is told in understandable terms in a new book written by two biochemists involved in advancing the use of CRISPR-Cas9.

“It allows you to really think about treating disease in a different way. Instead of persistent treatments that might require daily or weekly administration, you could turn to a one-time treatment that edits enough of the patient’s cells at the DNA level to eliminate the causative mutation at its source,” said the guest speaker, Samuel H. Sternberg, PhD, the co-author of A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution.

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