ASA announces 2006 Research Scholar Award winners

Research seeks treatment and cures for skin disorders affecting 80 million Americans and costing $37 billion annually

The American Skin Association (ASA) announced today that it has granted its 2006 Research Scholar Awards to four promising investigators conducting research in the causes, prevention and treatment of skin diseases and cancers. The grants support new discoveries in the basic and clinical sciences, which should advance the understanding and treatment of skin diseases. The ASA is a volunteer-led organization that provides public support for research, education, prevention and treatment of skin disorders and cancers.

"We are delighted to support these scientists as they continue important research that can make a positive difference in the lives of the 80 million Americans living with skin disorders," said George W. Hambrick, Jr., M.D., Founder and President, American Skin Association. "Their work supports the mission of the ASA to save lives and alleviate human suffering caused by the full spectrum of skin disorders."

More than one in three Americans suffer from skin disorders, which strike people of all ages, all races, all economic levels and both sexes. Many skin disorders, including severe burns and cancers, can be fatal. Skin cancer, which accounts for half of all new cancer diagnoses, is now the fastest-rising form of cancer. On an annual basis, skin disorders of all kinds cost the nation more than $37 billion in medical treatment and lost worker productivity.

"Rates of melanoma are on the rise and the disease is as deadly as it has ever been," commented Howard P. Milstein, Chairman of the American Skin Association. "The research supported by the ASA can lead to breakthrough treatments for melanoma and other serious skin disorders."

The $50,000 awards were presented to the following investigators for work in their areas of interest:

  • Non-Melanoma/Skin Cancer--David M. Owens, Ph.D., Florence Irving Assistant Professor of Epithelial Cell Biology, Department of Dermatology, Columbia University. Dr. Owens is conducting leading edge research in the field of cutaneous biology and carcinogenesis with an emphasis on the pathogenesis of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). SCC, the most common type of human malignancy has a high propensity for metastasis. His research is designed to enhance the current understanding of the pathogenesis of potentially fatal SCCs and lead to new treatment options in the future.
  • Melanoma/Skin Cancer--Andy Chien, M.D., Ph.D., Acting Assistant Professor, Dermatology Division, University of Washington. Dr. Chien is studying epidermal differentiation, wound healing and cutaneous neoplasms. His research will focus on signaling and cell polarity in human malignant melanoma in order to identify therapeutic targets with the goal of developing novel therapies for treating metastatic disease.
  • Inflammatory Skin Disorders--Aimee S. Payne, M.D., Ph.D, Clinical Instructor and Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania. A physician-scientist, Dr. Payne is studying genetic and molecular mechanisms of pemphigus, a cutaneous autoimmune blistering disorder. The goal of her current project is to genetically characterize the immune response in pemphigus to identify novel and potentially safer antibody-targeted therapies for this life-threatening disorder.
  • Melanocyte Biology--Deborah Lang, Ph.D., Instructor, Section of Dermatology, University of Chicago. Dr. Lang has explored the role of the Pax3 gene in the normal maintenance of adult melanocyte (pigment producing) stem cells and the regulation in melanoma cells. Her continued research will advance the understanding of the role of Pax3 in the maintenance of melanocyte stem cells in mature skin.

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The Awards are supported by donations to the ASA from Abby S. and Howard P. Milstein, Edward L. Milstein, The Carson Family Charitable Trust Fund, and Karen and David Mandelbaum. The winners were selected by ASA's Medical and Scientific Committee, which includes leading researchers and clinicians in dermatology at research centers and major health care institutions throughout the U.S.

Through its national grants and awards program, the ASA has distributed nearly $5 million in awards, grants, laboratories and professorships throughout the country. Past award winners have come from the fields of gene therapy for malignant melanoma, inflammation of the skin, skin cancer, childhood disease and stem cell research, among other areas. ASA also helps raise awareness of the need for additional funding for skin disease research, which today remains among the National Institutes of Health's lowest funding priorities.

About the American Skin Association
With headquarters in New York City, the American Skin Association, founded in 1987, is a volunteer-led health organization dedicated--through research, education and advocacy--to saving lives and alleviating human suffering caused by the full spectrum of skin disorders and cancers.


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