Pigment cell disorders, such as vitiligo, are characterized by changes in skin pigmentation. Vitiligo is a depigmenting skin condition, mediated by autoimmunity against skin melanocytes. The visibility of white skin lesions in vitiligo patients and patients’ uncertainty on the disease course can have a major impact on the quality of life.
We aim to understand the pathogenesis of vitiligo in order to improve treatment options for patients. We are investigating new therapeutics for vitiligo, as well as the patient perspective on vitiligo treatment. During the pandemic, we explored the risk of COVID-19 for vitiligo patients and patients with other immune mediated skin diseases.
Vitiligo and melanoma
We found that vitiligo patients have less risk of getting melanoma and other skin cancers. Conversely, melanoma patients who develop vitiligo have an improved survival. We are exploring the relationship of vitiligo and melanoma, to develop new types of immunotherapy for melanoma by the induction of vitiligo-associated immunity. We are also studying vitiligo as a potential biomarker for immunotherapy response of melanoma patients.
We perform a wide range of research methodologies, including experimental and translational research on immunological, biochemical, molecular and cell biological mechanisms, as well as preclinical research in disease models and clinical or epidemiological research in patients.
To achieve our goals, we collaborate with a large network of dermatology and melanoma research centers in the Netherlands and abroad (eg. the IO-GEM melanoma consortium), as well as with patient associations (vitiligo.nl, Stichting Melanoom). Our research is part of the Cancer Center Amsterdam and the Amsterdam institute for infection and Immunity.
Science and society
We also provide public information on pigment disorders for patients, professionals and the general public via Pigmentfonds Nederland.