Skin/ Cutaneous Oncology

Summary of Program

The skin/cutaneous oncology research program is a highly interdisciplinary group of investigators dedicated to reducing the incidence and mortality from all types of skin cancers. The program fosters interdisciplinary research in basic science, genetics, clinical medicine, cancer prevention, and epidemiology. Our team is comprised of faculty from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research CenterUniversity of Washington, Benaroya Research Institute, and the clinical community to improve skin cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment. 

Program Strengths

Clinicians at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) Multidisciplinary Skin Oncology Clinic embrace a holistic approach to patient care. Knowledgeable on a spectrum of skin cancers, our team enables improved health outcomes. Treatments include cryosurgery, laser therapy, curettage, electrodessication, Mohs surgery, radiation therapy and topical chemotherapy. With the most advanced and innovative therapies offered at the SCCA to treat a spectrum of skin cancers, the Skin Oncology Clinic is among the top leaders in cancer care.


In our comprehensive skin cancer research program, investigators are harnessing the power of the immune system to kill cancerous cells, or immunotherapy, as a promising treatment for melanoma.

Melanoma: A team led of Fred Hutch researchers reported that a patients' own tumor-fighting cells wiped out his melanoma without chemotherapy or radiation treatment. If the technique—known as adoptive T-cell therapy—shows promise in a larger set of patients, this therapy could be used for 25 percent of all late-stage melanoma patients. Learn more >

Merkel Cell Carcinoma: Drs. Denise Galloway and Paul Nghiem developed a blood test to detect the presence of the Merkel cell polyomavirus, the virus that can cause an aggressive form of skin cancer known as Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). Galloway and Nghiem determined the virus is extremely common in the general population, but only becomes MCC in a minority of people. Subsequent research identified polyomavirus protein fragments that can be recognized by the body’s T cells. Theses disease-fighting T cells can be used to kill MCC cells containing the protein fragment. Learn more >

Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Currently, doctors at SCCA are using an immune-response modifier (imiquimod) to treat early basal cell carcinoma and a topical medicine for squamous cell carcinoma precursors as well as thin, squamous cell carcinomas. Learn more >

Robert Pierce, M.D.

STTR Skin/Cutaneous Oncology Deputy Director 

Dr. Robert Pierce - STTR Skin/Cutaneous Oncology Program Deputy Director

Dr. Pierce is a Board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with a strong academic and industry background in immuno-oncology. His laboratory research is focused on mechanisms of tumor-induced immune tolerance by which tumors can escape anti-tumor immune responses. He is an expert in using multiparametric immunohistochemistry panels to quantitatively analyze the phenotype and tissue distribution of immune cells within the tumor microenvironment, and in the development of biomarkers to predict responses to immuno-oncology treatments.  While at Merck, Dr. Pierce led a team focused on the development of tissue-based biomarkers for Merck’s anti-PD- 1 therapeutic antibody (pembrolizumab; KEYTRUDA®) and was the medical lead responsible for kicking-off the clinical trials of pembrolizumab in Merkel cell carcinoma.


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