Eclectic passions spice of life

March 1, 2007

Her parents never pushed her into medicine, or even to go to college, for that matter. Instead, they instilled the values she needed to do what she does today.

Whether caring for the sickest of dermatology patients or enjoying a moment with her family, a good meal and fine wine, Marie-France Demierre, M.D., is driven by her passion to make the experience as good as it can be.

"I knew, at that point, that dermatology was what I needed to do," Dr. Demierre tells Dermatology Times.

Think, investigate, explore

"If you are passionate about something, you want to stick with it. You want to keep pursuing what motivates you," she says.

Dr. Demierre's work with often critically ill patients has taught her to think innovatively and critically. She says, for example, there is growing evidence that melanoma is not a single disease, but rather is biologically and genetically heterogeneous.

"I think it will be very important for us to understand that in the next decade and, perhaps, to tailor our approaches to treatment of a heterogeneous disease," she says.

The dermatologist is also fascinated by research in melanoma chemoprevention, or using agents to prevent melanoma recurrence or development - an area that, according to Dr. Demierre, is in its preclinical stage.

"We do not yet have data, but there is a lot of interest in looking at the lipid-lowering drugs in melanoma. They are currently being looked at in other diseases - such as Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, colorectal cancer - and these drugs seem to inhibit pathways that are involved in cancer. One of those pathways is involved in a subtype of melanoma, but probably not all melanoma," Dr. Demierre says.

The full-time academician oversees BU's extracorporeal photopheresis program, where she and her colleagues treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma patients with modalities approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The therapy, according to Dr. Demierre, works slowly, but well, to treat patients' blood.

"The treatment works in a fascinating way that we probably do not fully understand," she says.

"It has been approved since 1988, and Boston University was one of the first centers after Yale to really get into it and provide it" in patient care.

Patients diagnosed with graft versus host disease might be another population to benefit from photopheresis, she says.

Caring for sickest broadens role

Dr. Demierre has incorporated not only her in-depth knowledge of melanoma but also her knowledge of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma into the fellowship program she has run since 1997.

Rather than shy away from the sickest patients, Dr. Demierre embraces their care.

"I share the inpatient consultation with a colleague, so I am involved in seeing sick patients, which I think is a unique part of dermatology. We should not lose that aspect of dermatology, where we see the sickest and most unusual presentations of the specialty," she explains. "I would say I have the most amazing career in the sense that I am seeing it all."

Core values from home

Her parents never pushed her into medicine, or even to go to college, for that matter.

Instead, they instilled the values she needed for what she does today.