James Grichnik, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Dermatology
Description of Research
Dr. Grichnik's team has a multifaceted program with both clinical and basic science research arms. In the clinic, they are utilizing and developing imaging technologies that allow them to identify melanomas at the earliest stages. Not only does this allow them to remove these tumors when they are highly curable, but it also allows them to gain insight into the early events of melanoma development. Although there remain many challenges in melanoma patient care, there are two areas that are of particular concern: 1) a lack of molecular markers that definitively segregate lethal from non-lethal melanomas, and 2) a lack of markedly effective treatment for metastatic disease. In his basic research laboratory his team is working toward the development of better tumor markers and new therapeutic approaches by focusing attention on understanding the basic developmental biology of melanoma. They have determined that melanoma tumors are best viewed as developmental systems (a heterogeneous collection of cells, generally attempting to differentiate toward pigment cells). These tumors include a sub-population of cells with stem-cell-like features. The tumor stem cells have the capacity to differentiate towards a number of different developmental directions including germ cell pathways. Dr. Grichnik believes that it is the expression of the germ cell pathways that allow the cancer process to progress. His laboratory is currently focusing on germ cell pathway protein expression as markers of lethal tumors and therapeutic targets. His team is especially interested in meiomitosis, a process they theorize causes genomic instability due to the collision of meiosis and mitotic pathways. Dr. Grichnik and his colleagues are utilizing fluorescence based tools and confocal microscopy to visualize chromosome dynamics during malignant progression. They are also developing a “humanized” murine model for the study of melanoma development and targeted treatment.
- Control of melanocytic homeostasis by stem cell factor in normal human skin
- The presence of melanocytic precursor (stem) cells in human skin
- The existence of a subpopulation of tumor cells within metastatic melanomas that have stem-cell-like features and increased tumorigenicity
Selected Cancer-Related Publications
- Cardones AR, Grichnik JM. alpha-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone-induced eruptive nevi. Arch Dermatol 145:441-4, 2009. Read more »
- Grichnik JM. Hypothesis letter: The reason sentinel and lymph node dissections do not improve melanoma mortality. J Invest Dermatol 129:779-81, 2009. Read more »
Collaborating in the Multidisciplinary Research Program(s):