Department of Dermatology Department of Dermatology

Our Researchers

Diona Damian is Professor of Dermatology at The University of Sydney, Clinical Academic in Dermatology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Associate of the Melanoma Institute Australia. Her research over the past 27 years has focussed on the role of the skin's immune system in the causation, prevention and treatment of skin cancer. This work has been funded primarily by a range of Cancer Institute NSW, Cancer Council NSW and NHMRC Project Grants and Fellowships. Professor Damian's findings in the fields of skin cancer chemoprevention with nicotinamide (vitamin B3), the effects of UV radiation on the skin's immune responses and the use of topical immunotherapy with diphencyprone for metastatic melanoma have been translated into clinical practice in Australia and internationally.

Current research is examining skin cancer prevention in organ transplant recipients, and the immune microenvironment within skin cancers in transplant recipients and in people with normal immunity. Professor Damian and Drs Moreno, Lin and Ge are also working with the Sydney Melanoma Diagnostic Centre to assess the use of a new ex-vivo confocal microscope (first in Australia) that will let us examine the microscopic edges of skin cancers in clinic to check whether there are clear margins (microscopically controlled excision).

Clinical Associate Professor Guy Lyons'research group uses a combination of mathematical modelling and novel laboratory-based models to follow the fate of cells during carcinogenesis in the skin, eye and mouth. We have found that the location of stem cells for the cornea at its perimeter, together with the limited lifespan of the cells that they give rise to, causes a flux of cells towards the centre of the cornea, and that UV radiation increases this. Professor Lyons' group has also used models of oral carcinogenesis, together with advanced image analysis techniques, to examine the evolution of clones of cells during the development of squamous cell carcinomas of the tongue. We have shown that tongue cells exposed to a chemical carcinogen used as a surrogate for tobacco evolve much faster than those from untreated tongues. Cell lines have been established from the tumours that arise so that the gene mutations that underlie malignant behaviour can be understood, and new strategies for treating oral cancer can be devised and tested.

The group has also been elucidating the mechanisms by which squamous cell carcinomas develop in the skin and other tissues. Collaboration with investigators at the University of NSW and the Save Sight Institute, have found that UV radiation has dramatic effects on the mechanisms by which cell proliferation is maintained in the cornea. In collaboration with investigators at the Garvan Institute and University of California, San Diego, they have developed novel fluorescent cell lines for study of squamous cell carcinoma, determined the mutations that they have and identified a key pathway that drives malignancy in them.

Clinical Associate Professor Patricia Lowe is a Senior Staff Specialist at RPA Dermatology. AMAGINE-3 Clinical Trial: Protocol 20120104 RPAH - Site 11004 A Phase 3 Study to Evaluate the Efficacy and Safety of Induction and Maintenance Regimens of Brodalumab Compared With Placebo and Ustekinumab in Subjects With Moderate to Severe Plaque Psoriasis. This international multi-centre clinical trial looked at the effect and safety of a novel biologic agent, Brodalumab, in the treatment of psoriasis, a common skin disease. This agent is an inhibitor of an interleukin-17 receptor (IL-17R) and is given as a subcutaneous injection. Additionally, the trial compared the efficacy of this agent to a currently PBS listed biologic agent of another class, Ustekinumab (an IL-12/23 inhibitor).