More than 700 Screened for Skin Cancer at 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival
Mount Sinai Dermatologists Identified Many with Sun-damaged Skin over Ten Days
Photo: Tim, Shirley, and Elizabeth Foster were three of several hundred people screened for skin cancer at the Aspen Ideas Festival by Mount Sinai dermatologists, including Virginia Chen, MD.
Dermatologists from the Mount Sinai Health System performed 713 skin cancer screenings at the Aspen Ideas Festival (AIF), identifying nine possible melanomas, 190 precancerous lesions, 80 atypical moles and 89 potential non-melanoma skin cancers. This is nearly twice the number of screenings performed at last year’s Festival. These potential diagnoses must be confirmed with additional testing.
The Aspen Ideas Festival, which was held from June 24 through July 3, 2014, in Aspen, Colorado, gathers leading thinkers to discuss their work and the issues that inspire them. Presented by The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, the Festival is unique in its dedication to the global exchange of ideas. The event is ideal for skin cancer screenings, given Aspen’s high altitude, thinner atmosphere, and higher-than-usual exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
“Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world, but also one of the most preventable and treatable forms," said Mark Lebwohl, MD, Sol and Clara Kest Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “When caught early the cure rate is nearly 100 percent. In addition, our department is working on innovations that we hope will identify skin cancers earlier and treat them more effectively.”
Dr. Lebwohl is also president-elect of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), which estimates that more than 139,000 new cases of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, will be diagnosed in 2014, along with more than 3.5 million nonmelomana skin cancers.
The Mount Sinai screening team included Norman Goldstein, MD, Professor of Dermatology; Virginia Chen, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology; and Dina Anderson, MD, a Clinical Instructor in the Department of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dermatology residents Rita Linkner, MD, and Bradley Glodny MD, along with post-doctoral fellow Chris Dolan, MD, also performed screenings.
“Many participants say they are too busy to see their dermatologist yearly,” said Dr. Goldstein. “I recommend that they do see their dermatologist and examine their skin each year on their birthdays. I found this week three possible cases of basil cell carcinoma, which is an abnormal growth of the skin’s basal cells, the deepest cell layer in the outermost part of the skin.”
“A lot of people said they haven't been screened in years, which was surprising because some had a family history of melanoma,” said Dr. Linker, who found one potential melanoma during the screenings. “I was also surprised about the amount of sun damage among young people.”
Aspen native Tim Foster came to the screening with his wife, Shirley, and six-year-old daughter Elizabeth for the second year in a row. “Aspen has pretty harsh conditions in terms of the sun and the altitude, and I also have pretty fair skin. My mom was a sun goddess and got skin cancer, and when I was young I couldn't choose not to go in the sun. Now I‘m aware of skin protection measures."
Research conducted at the Mount Sinai Health System, which includes seven member hospitals and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, has helped advance new treatments, techniques, and technologies related to skin cancer.
Two recently approved topically applied treatments for precancerous or cancerous skin lesions, imiquimod and ingenol mebutate, for example, were developed or tested at Mount Sinai, and vismodegib, an oral treatment for advanced basal cell carcinoma, was also tested by Mount Sinai researchers.
Investigators at the Icahn School of Medicine are also studying whether vaccination with a mixture based on a key protein, NY-ESO-1, can safely arm the immune system to protect patients against a common form of skin cancer. Nina Bhardwaj, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Medicine Oncology), and Rachel Sabado, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Medical Oncology), led a recent study that found the immune systems of those vaccinated reacted strongly to the vaccine in ways that suggest protective value. Results with the vaccine, called Resiquimod, should prove useful for future efforts to generate more potent cancer vaccines, according to the researchers.
Additionally, The Mount Sinai Hospital is conducting a clinical trial using the ZipLine Surgical Skin Closure device, designed to reduce infection risk and speed healing after skin cancer surgery. According to Hooman Khorasani, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine, and principal investigator for the trial, the device may reduce the time it takes for wound-closing surgery when compared to sutures. The device does not pierce the skin like sutures and staples, but instead attaches to the skin around a wound with an adhesive. It eliminates pathways through the skin that cause surgical site infections, and, after time to heal, can be peeled away like tape. According to Dr. Khorasani, Mount Sinai is the only academic institution to offer the device to skin cancer patients.
Beyond skin cancer, other investigators within the Department of Dermatology have been at the forefront of research on many of the new treatments for psoriasis and are leading studies examining potential treatments for severe eczema, also called atopic dermatitis (AD). A study led by Emma Guttman-Yassky, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Dermatology, is investigating the efficacy of a new intravenous medication, ILV-094. It is designed to block IL-22, an important molecule shown in animal models to trigger the cellular changes and inflammation that lead to the red, scaly skin patches seen with AD. The study, which has begun enrolling patients, is groundbreaking in its use of “targeted immune interventions” that may be useful in several inflammatory diseases.
For a summary of Mount Sinai's participation at Aspen, please go to this link.
About the Mount Sinai Health System
The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven member hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—from community‐based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.
The System includes approximately 6,600 primary and specialty care physicians, 12‐minority‐owned free‐standing ambulatory surgery centers, over 45 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island, as well as 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report.
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