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Oncodermatology: An Emerging Field


At the SPDA conference, Meghan Heberton, MD, told attendees about the importance of oncodermatology in patient care.

“Immunotherapy as a whole has changed cancer outcomes for patients,” Meghan Heberton, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, told Dermatology Times in an exclusive interview at the 2024 Annual Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants Annual Summer Dermatology Conference in San Diego, California.

“Cutaneous adverse events from immunotherapy are one of the primary side effects seen from those therapies. Our ability as a specialty to correctly diagnose what's going on with those patients, triage them, and then sometimes intervene so that patients can stay on life saving cancer therapy is absolutely critical to the interdisciplinary team that's taking care of those patients.”

“That's one of the things that I tried to introduce in my session today—what is the scope of diagnoses we see in patients on immunotherapy?” said Heberton.

During her at the conference, Heberton shared illustrative cases, noting how to talk with other specialties about what's going on with the patient and leveraging her expertise.

“If you go up to someone who has no derm training and try to talk to them about the bullous pemphigoid, they are going to need some context,” she told Dermatology Times. “So I think being able to translate what we're seeing in severity and prognosis for the patient is super important.”

Heberton is excited about what the field can do to support patients going such difficult times. A common terminology was created to properly discuss adverse events. “It has its pitfalls, but it is at least a common language,” she said. “When we're speaking with oncology teams, they know exactly what we're talking about.”

“I just can't say enough about how awesome this field is,” Heberton told Dermatology Times. “And I always wanted to do something where I was longitudinally partnered with patients and did something very medically with them. This is a way that I've been able to interface both with my medicine background and that like complex patient care relationship.

“I also get to spend my days talking about interesting things with other specialists. I feel very integrated with the comprehensive care of these patients.

“So I would just advocate: if people are interested in getting involved in this field. I think that there's so much work to be done so much. We don't know what the best path forward is for a lot of these patients,” she added.

“Immunotherapy is just the tip of the iceberg. There's so many other things that these patients experience,” she continued. “They like having somebody plugged in to their team because it's such a hard thing that they're going through. And if you can say look, I know all that stuff that you're going through, you don't have to tell me I've already read the notes. I know what you're experiencing. Even if they're just there for seborrheic keratosis—having somebody on their team that's plugged in like that, I have found is just unmatched in terms of providing the holistic care that people need.”

Do you want to learn more about oncodermatology? Share your thoughts via DTEditor@mmhgroup.com.

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