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IDPF awards a $3m grant to establish an endowed professorship in skin cancer research

July 2023
July 2023
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In 2021 IDPF awarded  a $3m grant to establish an endowed professorship in skin cancer research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to allow the most talented scholars to advance missions in clinical care, research, and education.

In 2022, Pedram Gerami, MD, professor of Dermatology (Dermatopathology), Pathology, and Pediatrics began his new appointment as the IDP Foundation, Inc. Professor. An internationally recognized melanoma expert, Dr. Gerami is director of the Skin Cancer Institute of Northwestern Medical Group (SCIN-Med), as well as the Melanoma Program in the Skin Cancer Institute and the Melanoma Clinic in Feinberg’s Department of Dermatology. In 2001, Dr. Gerami earned a medical degree from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. He completed his residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics in 2005, and his fellowship training at the University of Chicago Hospitals in 2006.

The IDP professorship has given me the dedicated time to focus on my research and work with my team of students and fellows to publish studies advancing the field of melanoma. The professorship has been the greatest honor of my career, and for that I am very thankful.
 Pedram Gerami, MD

Dr. Gerami focuses his research studies on melanoma skin cancer, atypical moles, and borderline melanocytic tumors such as Spitz tumors, which may be difficult to classify. His interests include how to utilize clinical, histologic, and molecular diagnostic methods to optimize diagnostic accuracy and best predict the behavior of melanocytic neoplasms. Dr. Gerami’s ultimate goals are to develop methods for the diagnosis of melanoma skin cancer at its earliest and most curable stage as well as skin cancer prevention.

In seeking to develop the next generation of clinicians and scientists, each year Dr. Gerami mentors three medical students who spend a gap year with him doing research. He enjoys watching them develop strong interests in scientific discovery as well as take care of patients with melanoma. He also serves as an advisor to dermatopathology fellows and dermatology residents as well as junior dermatology faculty and other attending physicians interested in melanoma.

During the past year, the Gerami laboratory worked on many projects that combine genomic sequencing data with morphology to better define specific categories of melanocytic tumors that originate in the skin. Desmoplastic melanomas are often challenging to diagnose and ancillary tests, such as immunohistochemistry, have limitations. In recent discoveries, the investigators showed which genomic changes are most characteristic of desmoplastic melanoma—a rare form of melanoma—and desmoplastic nevi. Additionally, they genomically characterized new categories of melanocytic tumors such as MAP2K1 mutated benign tumors and PRKCA fusion blue tumors. The Gerami team published these findings in the March 2023 issue of the American Journal of Surgical Pathology and the May 2023 issue of the American Journal of Dermatopathology on desmoplastic melanoma. In addition to these two publications, his team’s work appeared in recent issues of Archives of Dermatologic Research, Journal of Cutaneous Pathology, and Pathology, to name a few.

Taking advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) resources across Northwestern, Dr. Gerami is also investigating the use of AI to identify patients at most risk for developing new and secondary melanomas as well as melanoma recurrences.

Identifying new subsets of melanocytic neoplasms, and adding to the literature in this area is exciting. These projects are extremely rewarding as they immediately translate into better clinical care because we have new and improved understanding of many tumors that we previously did not.
 Pedram Gerami, MD

IDP Foundation is proud to be a supporter of this work and we congratulate Dr. Gerami and his team for their continued hard work and dedication.

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