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Dermatology Research

Our research plan focuses on translational projects that will enable better understanding of the immune mechanisms of skin cancer and inflammatory skin diseases, better ways to prevent and to treat these disorders, and better understanding of the impact of skin disease on quality of life. A key area of focus is on groups at extreme risk of skin cancer.

In 2023 the results of the RPA-led multicentre Phase 3 trial of nicotinamide (vitamin B3) for skin cancer chemoprevention in transplant recipients were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Work using the novel technology of imaging mass cytometry is ongoing in keratinocyte cancers and melanomas arising in immune suppressed and immune competent individuals. Collaborations with The Charles Perkins Centre (CPC) and the RPAH Department of Tissue Pathology and Diagnostic Oncology have enabled this work to be undertaken with MPhil student Dr Catherine Zilberg supervised by Professor Damian, Associate Professor Ruta Guta (Tissue Pathology and Diagnostic Oncology) and Dr Angela Ferguson (CPC). 

Ongoing work in human oral squamous cell carcinoma is examining the role and nature of epithelial plasticity in cancer development and progression. We have established monoclonal cell lines from individual tumours and demonstrated that they interact with respect to cell growth and drug resistance. This suggests that a novel mechanism involving symbiosis between clones might promote tumour malignancy and resistance to therapy. 

Studies with the Sydney Melanoma Diagnostic Centre are assessing the utility of new ex-vivo confocal microscopy for ensuring clear surgical margins and enabling rapid diagnosis of skin cancers, and a Medical Research Futures Fund supported clinical trial of topical sirolimus to reduce skin cancer incidence in transplant patients will commence soon. 

Investigator initiated trials include intralesional triamcinolone for lower leg squamous cell carcinomas in elderly patients, and perioperative propranolol and celecoxib to modify the tumour microenvironment and reduce recurrence in patients with nodal and cutaneous metastatic melanoma.

Our Department's psoriasis research program continues with an evaluation of Drug survival of biologic treatments in patients with psoriasis. Investigators in this collaborative RPAH/Westmead project include Associate Professor Patricia Lowe, MPhil candidate Samantha Ting, Professor Pablo Fernandez Penas and Dr Annika Smith. The PSoHO study of adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis has completed recruitment. The PSoHO study, an international observational study of health outcomes in the biological treatment of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis has now completed recruitment. The main purpose of the study is to compare how effective different biologic therapies are at treating plaque psoriasis over time, and to gain a better understanding of how plaque psoriasis affects overall health and quality of life.

Our Research Team

Professor Diona Damian Head of Department and Clinical Academic
Associate Professor Guy Lyons Senior Hospital Scientist
Dr Natnicha Ketchaikosol PhD Student
Dr Thuy Luong PhD Student
Dr Samantha Ru-Ai Ting Masters Student
Dr Catherine Zilberg PhD Student

Selected Grants

Amount awarded Grant and project details
$2,486,489 MRFF, 2022-2024
The SiroSkin study: A multi-centre randomised double-blind placebocontrolled trial of 1% topical sirolimus in the chemoprevention of facial squamous cell carcinomas in solid organ transplant recipients. 
RPA Investigator: Damian DL (CIG)
$120,000 Sydney Cancer Partners, 2023-2024
The ProCel study: Perioperative PROpranolol and CELecoxib in stage III melanoma: modifying the melanoma microenvironment to reduce metastatic risk.
Investigators: Damian D, Saw R, Wilmott J, Ferguson A, Gupta R, Lyons JG, Zilberg C

Our Publications


Allen NC, Martin AJ, Snaidr VA, Eggins R, Chong AH, Fernandéz-Peñas P, Gin D, Sidhu S, Paddon VL, Banney LA, Lim A, Upjohn E, Schaider H, Ganhewa AD, Nguyen J, McKenzie CA, Prakash S, McLean C, Lochhead A, Ibbetson J, Dettrick A, Landgren A, Allnutt KJ, Allison C, Davenport RB, Mumford BP, Wong B, Stagg B, Tedman A, Gribbin H, Edwards HA, De Rosa N, Stewart T, Doolan BJ, Kok Y, Simpson K, Low ZM, Kovitwanichkanont T, Scolyer RA, Dhillon HM, Vardy JL, Chadban SJ, Bowen DG, Chen AC, Damian DL. Nicotinamide for Skin-Cancer Chemoprevention in Transplant Recipients. N Engl J Med. 2023 Mar 2;388(9):804-812. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2203086.
Allen NC, Paver EC, Agar N, Scolyer RA, Moloney FJ. A sheep in wolf's clothing: Agminated blue naevi masquerading as in-transit melanoma metastases. Australas J Dermatol. 2023 May;64(2):e196-e199. doi: 10.1111/ajd.14002. Epub 2023 Feb 25.
Farrell J, Moreno G. Slice by slice: An Australian state-by-state analysis of Mohs micrographic surgery over 5 years. Australas J Dermatol. 2023 Nov;64(4):497-503. doi: 10.1111/ajd.14145. Epub 2023 Aug 24.
Gu Y, Polcz MM, Sebaratnam DF. Multidisciplinary care of skin cancer in transplant recipients. Intern Med J. 2023 Dec;53(12):2355-2356. doi: 10.1111/imj.16293.
Gupta R, Selinger CI, Ashford B, Chua MST, Clark JR, Damian DL, Jackett LA, James C, Johnson S, Ladwa R, Lambie D, McKenzie C, Tan ST, Scolyer RA. Implementing structured pathology reporting protocol for non-melanocytic skin cancers: practical considerations. Pathology. 2023 Oct;55(6):743-759. doi: 10.1016/j.pathol.2023.07.003. Epub 2023 Jul 28.
Sahu P, Donovan C, Paudel KR, Pickles S, Chimankar V, Kim RY, Horvart JC, Dua K, Ieni A, Nucera F, Bielefeldt-Ohmann H, Mazilli S, Caramori G, Lyons JG, Hansbro PM. Pre-clinical lung squamous cell carcinoma mouse models to identify novel biomarkers and therapeutic interventions. Front Oncol. 2023 Sep 25;13:1260411. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2023.1260411.
Wu M, Seebacher N, Polcz M. Good's syndrome associated with multiple basal cell carcinomas: a case report. Med J Aust. 2023 Nov 6;219(9):405-407. doi: 10.5694/mja2.52093. Epub 2023 Aug 26.
Zilberg C, Lyons JG, Gupta R, Damian DL. The Immune Microenvironment in Basal Cell Carcinoma. Ann Dermatol. 2023 Aug;35(4):243-255. doi: 10.5021/ad.22.042.
Zilberg C, Lyons JG, Gupta R, Ferguson A, Damian DL. The Tumor Immune Microenvironment in Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma Arising in Organ Transplant Recipients. Ann Dermatol. 2023 Apr;35(2):91-99. doi: 10.5021/ad.22.175.