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New Lamp Could Help Eliminate Skin Cancer Threat

Ann Thompson
Dr. Zalfa Abdel-Malek, UC professor of dermatology and cancer biology, shows off a new solar simulator to help with her research.

A special lamp that mimics the sun could be the key to University of Cincinnati researchers developing a topical cream that may be able to repair skin damage from ultraviolet rays.

The solar simulator  was a gift from the Andy Caress Melanoma Foundation and Melanoma Know More Foundation.

The lamp emits light that encompasses the entire spectrum of solar ultraviolet radiation-UVA and UVB. UC’s old lamps projected only UVB rays. Dr. Zalfa Abdel-Malek, professor of dermatology and cancer biology, says both can contribute to skin cancer. She’s trying to discover the genetic susceptibility to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Abdel-Malek’s goal is a topical cream that will interact with skin cells to repair skin damage while also increasing pigmentation to provide a tan without the sun. She estimates her development is about five years away. It’s something that Jenny Powell says can’t come soon enough. She’s a two-time melanoma survivor and on the board of Melanoma Know More, the other foundation that gave money to pay for the lamp.

She says, “Ultimately what we want is to have no one suffer from this disease. Zalfa’s work to me is just amazing.  So if we can develop something that will allow us, that not just reflects the rays or provides some protection but really can biologically fight what is a pigmentation that is likely to become cancer, to me is the ultimate answer to melanoma.”

Abdel-Malek points to a freezer full of tissue samples and explains just how specific the research can be with the solar simulator lamp. “If we irradiate for a certain time period this is similar to so many minutes of exposure through the sun, let’s say, at noon at a certain latitude.”

After the tissue is exposed to the sun simulator, her staff will monitor how well those cells can repair the sun damage. Not all cells react the same. In fact, healthy cells can reverse damage better than cells in somebody with a high predisposition to melanoma. Testing begins in January 2017.