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Scientists win national dermatology award

Representatives from the Xeroderma Pigmentosum National Service were presented with the award at the BMJ Annual Awards ceremony

Prof Alan Lehmann

The Xeroderma Pigmentosum National Service has received a prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ) Award.

The service, which was set up by Dr Bob Sarkany at St Thomas’s Hospital in London and Prof Alan Lehmann, received the Dermatology Team of the Year Award.

The award identifies an innovative project, which has measurably improved care for patients and support for their families.

Alan Lehmann, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Sussex, said: “It’s a great honour for the work of the XP team to be recognised with this prestigious award. We know from our feedback from the patients that the care provided by the service has made a tremendous difference to their coping with this life-threatening disorder.”

Representatives from the Xeroderma Pigmentosum National Service were presented with the award at the BMJ Annual Awards ceremony at the Park Plaza Hotel in London on 24 April.

Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP) is an extremely rare inherited condition, affecting roughly one in 500,000 people. The ability of cells to repair the damage in their DNA caused by ultraviolet (UV) light is deficient, causing a heightened sensitivity to sunlight. This results in severe sunburn, blistering, dry skin and eye problems.

Individuals with XP are also about 1,000 times more likely to develop skin cancer than those without the disorder. In extreme cases, all exposure to sunlight must be prevented, significantly affecting quality of life.

Prof Lehmann has spent many years studying XP at the Genome Damage and Stability Centre at the University of Sussex and has discovered the molecular basis for one form of the disorder.

He also established a cellular diagnostic test for XP and for many years he has, together with his assistant Heather Fawcett, used this test to confirm or exclude the diagnosis of XP in referrals from all over the world.

In 2010 Dr Bob Sarkany, Consultant Dermatologist at St Thomas’s Hospital in London, obtained funding together with Prof Lehmann from the NHS National Commissioning Group to establish a multi-disciplinary national service for XP.

The clinic for the service has been running every fortnight since that time and over 100 patients visit on a regular basis, representing more than 90% of XP patients living in the UK.

Prof Lehmann is consultant scientist at the clinic and his cellular diagnostic test has been integrated into the service.

He was also instrumental in helping to establish a similar service for Cockayne Syndrome and trichothiodystrophy (two disorders closely related to XP), which was recently set up at St Thomas’s by Dr Shehla Mohammed.

The BMJ award was given in recognition of the unique improvements in care, management and treatment of XP that have resulted from the service and of the impact that it has had on the lives of individuals with XP.

Now in their 11th year, the BMJ Annual Awards are the UK’s leading medical awards. They promote excellence in healthcare and recognise the inspirational work of healthcare teams across the country.

The Dermatology Team of the Year Award is sponsored by Leo.

By: Jessica Gowers
Last updated: Thursday, 2 May 2019