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MD Anderson dermatologist & oncologist collaborate to treat vitiligo


American Academy of Dermatology honors Dr. Anisha Patel as National "Patient Care Hero"

ROSEMONT, Ill. (Dec. 13, 2021) — Houston board-certified dermatologist Anisha Patel, MD, FAAD, was named a Patient Care Hero by the American Academy of Dermatology for collaborating to treat a patient who developed a complex skin condition while being treated for lung cancer.

Shawn Bruton noticed discolored patches on her body while undergoing lung cancer treatment. She turned to Dr. Patel, who diagnosed her with vitiligo — an autoimmune disease that causes the skin to lose its natural color. Dr. Patel determined the cancer therapy was destroying vital cells that give skin, hair, and other areas of the body their color.

Research estimates that approximately 50 percent of patients who undergo immunotherapy and cancer chemotherapy experience a skin-related reaction such as a rash, itchiness, changes in hair texture, inflammation around the nails, or blisters in the mouth.

“Patients can become hesitant about continuing their cancer treatment once they know skin issues are a side effect,” said Dr. Patel, an associate professor in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “It’s dermatologists’ job to address these complications so patients can focus on healing and receive the most effective care available.”

Dr. Patel and Bruton’s oncologist, Mehmet Altan, MD, established a complementary treatment plan for both Bruton’s vitiligo and cancer conditions. Her vitiligo treatment included light therapy and topical medication every other day for six months. Bruton is now in remission and her vitiligo is barely visible.

"I didn’t expect my cancer treatment to damage my skin. It was an impossible situation: the very treatment that was helping me was also hurting me," said Bruton. "Dr. Patel and my oncologist consistently coordinated to ensure my vitiligo treatment was working and didn’t jeopardize my cancer therapy. My treatment journey isn't over, but I'm reassured there's an excellent, collaborative team looking out for me."

The AAD created the Patient Care Heroes program to recognize physicians who transform patients' lives by utilizing their expertise and collaborating with other physicians.

"Collaboration across specialties can help manage unwanted reactions in patients being treated for multiple conditions," said Ken Tomecki, MD, FAAD, president of the AAD. "Dr. Patel's work demonstrates how dermatologists collaborate to ease patient concerns and improve their quality of life."

Learn more about Dr. Patel’s care for Shawn.

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About SkinSerious SkinSerious is a campaign by the American Academy of Dermatology that highlights dermatologists’ role as partners in the health care system, providing expert care for serious conditions. To learn more, visit SkinSerious.org.

About the AAD Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin) or YouTube(AcademyofDermatology).