Recent Developments


Kyocera Begins Research in AI-based Image Recognition to Help Diagnose Skin Diseases and Cancers Via Smartphone

Kyocera Corporation is partnering with the University of Tsukuba to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based image recognition for eHealth applications to diagnose melanoma and other skin diseases by analyzing digital images of a patient’s skin.

They are targeting 2020 for commercialization.

Recent developments in AI, image recognition, and IT infrastructure are facilitating great advances in the ability to analyze digital images. Diagnosing skin diseases from digital images using AI will offer great advantages over conventional practices, which now often depend on the knowledge and experience of a physician.

Kyocera subsidiary Kyocera Communication Systems Co., Ltd. (KCCS) is working with Professor Manabu Fujimoto and Assistant Professor Yasuhiro Fujisawa (both of the Department of Dermatology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba) to develop an image-recognition system accurate enough to distinguish several types of skin malignancies, including melanoma.

KCCS and the University of Tsukuba will conduct joint research from March 2017 through March 2018, aiming toward a commercial application in the fiscal year ending March 2020.

The next phase of their project will aim for image-based diagnostic support of any skin disease. They plan to develop a system capable of identifying more than 2,000 different skin diseases from digital images by combining their respective resources and expertise in the future.

In addition to helping dermatology specialists, AI-based image recognition could allow accurate diagnoses in rural and remote areas lacking a local clinician, using pictures from smartphones or digital cameras to greatly improve healthcare outcomes.

The project benefits from a database of more than 20,000 clinical images accumulated over 20 years by the University of Tsukuba Hospital’s Department of Dermatology. The University’s experiences and knowledge including these images will be instrumental in assessing image-based diagnostic accuracy in real-world conditions.

Additionally, KCCS will bring AI-based image-processing expertise accumulated through Labellio—a cloud-based web service that allows any user to create a simple “drag-and-drop” image classifier powered by deep learning.

Protea Expands Clinical Study for New Melanoma Test

Protea Biosciences Group, Inc. is expanding its clinical research study for their new molecular imaging test for the differential diagnosis of malignant melanoma. The study has now surpassed 250 patient samples, the company reports.

The proprietary assay is based on technology that was developed jointly by Rossitza Lazova, MD, and Erin Seeley, PhD, and exclusively licensed from Yale University School of Medicine. The test identifies unique sets of proteins in standard biopsy samples that differentiate malignant melanoma from benign moles.

To date the clinical study has analyzed more than 200 patient samples that were classified at 96 percent accuracy. Protea plans to continue to expand the total patient number as part of its Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) validation process over the course of this year.

The results from the expanded study have shown a high degree of accuracy, indicating that the assay could be used as an objective diagnostic test for skin tissue biopsies.

Abeona Therapeutics Receives FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation for EB-101 Autologous Cell Therapy in EB

The FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation status to the Abeona Therapeutics Inc.’s EB-101 gene therapy program for patients with Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa.

EB-101 is an autologous, ex-vivo gene-corrected cell therapy in which the COL7A1 gene is inserted into a patient’s own skin cells (keratinocytes) for the treatment of the underlying disease in Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa.

The designation enables collaborative discussions with senior FDA personnel, priority review and an expedited approval process for drug candidates where preliminary clinical trials indicate that a therapy may offer substantial treatment advantages over existing options for patients with serious or life-threatening diseases.

The Breakthrough Therapy designation is based on data from the Phase 1/2 EB-101 clinical trial, which demonstrated significant wound healing (greater than 50 percent healed) in treated wounds for more than two years. The criteria for this particular designation requires preliminary clinical evidence that demonstrates the drug may have substantial improvement on at least one clinically significant endpoint over available therapy.

This is the first Breakthrough Therapy designation for Abeona since the FDA initiated the program in 2013.

The Company will work with the FDA on the final Phase 3 clinical trial design, planned to commence early 2018, and will provide an update on the program in the coming months.

The EB-101 program has been granted Orphan Drug and Rare Pediatric Disease Designations from the FDA and Orphan Drug Designation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

New Study Finds Most Melanomas Don’t Arise from Existing Moles

Less than one-third of melanomas (29 percent) arose from an existing mole, while the vast majority (71 percent) appeared on the skin as new spots, according to research in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Moreover, melanomas that arose from existing moles were thinner than other melanomas, indicating that patients whose melanoma was associated with an established mole had a better prognosis than others.

To arrive at their findings, researchers reviewed 38 published studies comprising 20,126 melanomas.

“These results could indicate that patients who monitor their existing moles for suspicious changes could detect melanoma in its early stages, when it’s most treatable,” says study author Caterina Longo, MD, PhD, a dermatologist at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, in a news release. “Because the disease is more likely to appear as a new growth, however, it’s important for everyone to familiarize themselves with all the moles on their skin and look for not only changes to those moles, but also any new spots that may appear.”

Could Vitamin B3 Help Prevent Melanoma?

Nicotinamide (Vitamin B3) may help stave off melanoma in high-risk individuals, a new review study in Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine suggests.

“Nicotinamide has been shown in a clinical trial—called ONTRAC—to reduce the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer in high-risk individuals and it would be worthwhile to determine whether it would also be useful for high-risk melanoma patients,” concludes lead author Dr. Gary Halliday, of the University of Sydney in Australia. (The ONTRAC or The Oral Nicotinamide To Reduce Actinic Cancer study was a phase III trial of nicotinamide in the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancers.)

Nicotinamide can help reduce or reverse DNA damage, inflammation, and immunosuppression caused by ultraviolet radiation, the review authors point out.

The cost of nicotinatimide is approximately $10 per month if taken at 1g per day as recommended.

Record Growth Noted for PCA SKIN

PCA SKIN ranked as the second fastest growing professional skincare brand in 2017, according to the global market research and management consulting firm, Kline.

Kline Company lists PCA SKIN as having 40 percent revenue growth as the result of professional and daily care innovation including the recent introductions of six percent Pure Retinol Peel and Advanced Treatment Booster on the professional side and Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum on the daily care side.

Other reasons for the revenue growth include increased focus on professional partnerships and a continued dedication to digital media efforts. PCA SKIN Academy provides skincare professionals with an opportunity to continue their education and provide clients with the best possible results. In the first half of 2017 alone, PCA SKIN certified 4,500 clinicians through national seminars, regional classes, and online learning. In a partnership with Massage Envy, PCA SKIN expanded their national reach by introducing a unique selection of chemical peels and daily care products into Massage Envy Spas across the country, training and certifying an additional 3,000 aestheticians.

PCA SKIN launched #PCAProsKnow on Instagram and Twitter. The use of the hashtag allows PCA SKIN Certified Professionals to share skincare tips and tricks and connects them with potential new clients via social media. #PCAProsKnow grew 162 percent year to date resulting in an overall increase in both professional and consumer engagement with the brand.

New Criteria Aims to Help Doctors Spot Amelanotic Melanoma Earlier

New research outlines key features linked to amelanotic melanoma. The findings, which appear in JAMA Dermatology, may help improve detection of this type of melanoma, which is more likely to be diagnosed at advanced stages because it falls outside of the “ABCDE” guidelines.

The researchers analyzed the characteristics of 178 patients with this disease drawn from a study of 2,995 melanoma patients enrolled in The Genes, Environment, and Melanoma study. The international study enrolled patients from 1998 to 2004.

People who lacked moles on their backs, who had many freckles, and “sun-sensitive” features— including red hair, light-colored eyes, and an inability to tan—had higher odds of developing amelanotic melanoma, the researchers found. In addition, people who previously had this disease were at higher risk, as were people who had variants of the MC1R gene that are linked to red hair.

Amelanotic melanoma is linked to worse survival because it’s more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage, Thomas says. “We have identified phenotypic traits that will trigger doctors and patients to pay attention not just to pigmented lesions, but also to these pink spots.”

About two to eight percent of melanomas are amelanotic, studies have shown. These skin cancers are seen predominately in white patients, and develop as pink growths.

La Roche-Posay North American Foundation Calls for Grant Proposals

Calling all dermatology residents, fellows, and new practitioners! The La Roche-Posay North American Foundation is accepting submissions for their 2018 program. Grants of up to $10,000 will be awarded to programs in the field of clinical, biological or pharmacological research linked to dermatology.

All applications must be postmarked by Dec 1, 2017.

Please submit two copies of your application to:

Secretariat General

La Roche-Posay Laboratoire Dermatologique

10 Hudson Yards

New York, NY 10001

Attention: Tyler Steele

Grants may also be submitted electronically:

All entries must include an abstract, a CV, and a letter of support from a mentor or chief of dermatology. Only one entry per candidate is permitted.

A panel of board-certified dermatologists will award two to three candidates with grants for their scientific research. All prizes will be announced at the 2018 American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Take 5

Jordan Miller, MD, Senior Medical Director of Dermatology for Modernizing Medicine

Modernizing Medicine recently announced a significant expansion that will add 838 jobs by 2022. The Boca Raton, FL-based company started in dermatology and now serves a total of eight specialties. Jordan Miller, MD, Senior Medical Director of Dermatology for Modernizing Medicine, spoke with Practical Dermatology® about the company’s expansion and future plans.

1. Structured Data is Growing

Since our founding, we’ve filled out the entire suite of services that a dermatologist would need. We’ve branched into practice management. We offer a pathology module for dermatopathologists to document and bill their readings of specimens. We have tele-help, which is linked directly to the patient record, which is a unique thing in the dermatology space. We have specialized registries for melanoma and vitiligo.

We have a very robust analytics platform, which allows you to look at your data and mix and match it and slice and dice it as many different ways as you’d like, which I think is really powerful and something that we’re able to offer that is unique in the market because of our structured data model. We’re also going to introduce a patient kiosk.

We’re one of the first companies from an EHR perspective to include the merit-based payment system, also known as MIPS, and we’re able to do this more easily than most companies because all of our data is structured. We’re able to analyze provider’s performance on the measures that MIPS thinks is important, and we report that to the provider in real time.

2. Growth Has Been Rapid

Since we started we’ve grown pretty rapidly. We have 35-40 percent of the US dermatology market. We’ve been ranked number one, four times in a row by Black Book, which is independent research, coming from our clients actually. We’re number one in the inaugural class, ambulatory specialist 2016 report, which is also independent.

3. Compliance is Crucial

A large percentage of our efforts are focused on the compliance team that we have, which is there to make sure that we’re able to hit the benchmarks and gather all the information that is necessary to make this easy. We design with the intention that all these extra requirements that the government is rolling out and wants reported won’t interfere in the day-to-day documentation of patient care. We’ve designed things so that, based on what you’re documenting, we’re able to capture data and use that to report and let the client know or let the provider know, good or bad, whether they’re meeting that requirement. Then if they’re not meeting it, we can tell them why and how to change it, and then they can make the change at the point of care. That’s kind of how we’ve focused on it.

4. Data = Opportunities

When we started, we touted structured data. That was something that was new in the dermatology market, and it was relatively new in the market in general. At the beginning we talked about giving users access to their structured data. The analytics platform that I mentioned earlier brings that to the forefront and it’s a really powerful thing. When you can compare yourself and your group, you can see trends, you can see treatment outcomes, you can see how you’re doing compared to the country as a whole. We wanted to get a significant chunk of the market so that we could reliably compare and we’ve been able to do that. I think going forward, some of the things that we would like to do with structured data is give providers the ability to participate in studies, and because our data is structured, it’s something that pharmacology companies are interested in allowing our users to participate in.

5. Dermatology Remains a Focus

We have recently raised quite a bit of money and that money is going to be used to solidify the offerings that we talked about…We’re going to use some of that investment to push towards more adaptability, which I think would be something that our current clients would love. Dermatology continues to be our largest vertical—about 60 percent of our business

We are developing something that will be helpful for the patient. We have an enhanced patient handout that will be kind of rolling out in the next couple weeks that I think will be really exciting for our users and I hope that they take the time to kind of investigate it. We’ll be doing our own little push for it, but I think that it’s a small thing that’s going to make a big difference.

Special Report: Doctors on Capitol Hill Discuss Advances in Laser Treatment of Scars, Burns

By Matthias Donelan, MD and Jill Waibel, MD

Unprecedented survival rates following severe burns and significant injuries have created a serious deficiency in treatment for millions of patients. Innovations in lasers are bringing new hope to these patients due to their ability to improve scars with pigmentary abnormalities, surface irregularities, abnormal vasculature, hypertrophy, and usually some degree of contraction, often associated with contractures. Patients report improvement in scar appearance, range of motion, and decreased pain and itching associated with these traumatic injuries along with a better quality of life when treated with lasers.

Drs. Donelan and Waibel outside the office of Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Dr. Waibel’s before and after images.

Drs. Donelan and Waibel at the AIMBE.

Drs. Donelan and Waibel and Ray Choye (Lumenis) with the lasers brought into Congress.

Staffers “treating” eggplant with the Lumenis Ultrapulse CO2 laser at the AIMBE.

The American Society of Laser Surgery and Medicine (ASLMS) recently joined the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) to host the Biomedical Technology Exhibition at the US House of Representatives. We were fortunate enough to be asked to impart the results of our project entitled “Laser Treatment of Burn and Traumatic Scars” as a live demonstration and PowerPoint presentation.

We used the Lumenis Ultrapulse fractional ablative carbon dioxide laser and the Lumenis IPL M22 to demonstrate the technology. The Lumenis Ultrapulse is the deepest fractional ablative laser on the market and can reach the depths needed to treat severe burn and trauma patients. To illustrate these benefits, we helped Congress and their staff use the laser on an eggplant and showed before-and-after photographs of severely wounded warriors and civilians who demonstrated significant improvement in both pre-clinical and clinical models of scar appearance, improved range of motion, and decreased scar symptoms.

Dramatic improvements seen with ablative fractional lasers

Hypertrophic burn and traumatic scars are improved by either ablative or non-ablative fractional lasers, but the most dramatic improvements are seen with ablative fractional lasers. The injury produced by an ablative fractional laser induces a more robust collagen remodeling response than non-ablative lasers. The non-ablative laser only reaches depths of 1.8mm, where the AFL Lumenis ScaarFX reaches depths of 4.0mm, respectively. In addition, tissue ablation appears to induce a modest but immediate photomechanical release of tension in restrictive scars. Often patients have an increase in range of motion within 24-48 hours after one fractional ablative therapy treatment. Flat or atrophic scars from burns and trauma also respond to fractional laser therapy.

We have found that using lasers decreases the number of more expensive surgeries currently required to treat extensive scarring. After laser resurfacing, scars are more amenable to additional surgery. Despite the promise, access to the technology is an issue. These treatments currently remain unavailable to the general public due to lack of insurance reimbursement. Many physicians have been working to get codes so that laser treatment of burn and trauma scars are covered by insurance. Based on the work of many dermatologists, we currently have a level 3 code. We hope to get a level 1 reimbursement code approved within the next five years.

Matthias B. Donelan, MD is Chief of Staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children, Boston and is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Jill Waibel, MD, is a Miami-based Dermatologist. She has disclosed that she has done one clinical trial with Lumenis.


In the August edition, p. 19a, the insert entitled “Nutraseb™ Facial Cream: Designed to Target Seborrheic Dermatitis,” Figure 2 (Scale Reducing Properties) was erronoeussly repeated in place of Figure 3 (Anti-inflammatory Properties). Figure 3 is shown here.

Access the full, up-to-date insert online.


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About Practical Dermatology

Practical Dermatology is the monthly publication that provides coverage of medical care, cosmetic advancements, and practice management for clinicians in the field. With straight-forward, how-to advice from experts in various fields, we strive to enhance quality of care and improve the daily operation of dermatology practices.