Understanding Research

It’s easy to think of scientific research into a disease as being distant to what we, as the people living with it, experience on a day to day basis. But understanding what is happening in the world of research can improve our understanding of what causes the disease, which new treatments are being developed, new ideas on how to manage it, and more. This section explains broadly how dermatology research works, how to get involved, and explains some of the organisations involved with making it happen. 

Research in Dermatology

Skin disorders represent about 15 percent of GP consultations. There are one million people in the UK who have psoriasis. 20 percent of all children have eczema. The incidence of skin cancer is increasing. The number of people suffering from skin disease grows each day. To understand skin disorders and develop new treatments to tackle these issues, we need to do research. Research in dermatology in the UK mainly takes place in clinical departments of dermatology in hospitals throughout the UK as well as in laboratories in universities. Some pharmaceutical companies also conduct dermatology research in their own laboratories or in collaboration with academics in universities. Research can be basic science research or clinical research. Basic science research usually involves working in the laboratory with cells derived from patient skin, or blood or skin samples. Clinical research takes many forms, for example clinical trials, administering questionnaires, clinical examination and documentation of findings, using large databases of anonymised patient data to understand more about associations between skin disease and other disorders, e.g. asthma or heart disease, and using artificial intelligence in dermatology to recognise skin lesions. Clinical trials are research studies involving patients, which compare a new or different type of treatment with the best treatment currently available (if there is one).Clinical trials may be funded by national funders such as the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Medical Research Council (MRC) or by pharmaceutical companies. The UK Dermatology Clinical Trials Network (UK DCTN) was formed in 2002 with the aim of conducting high quality, independent, multi-centre clinical trials for the treatment or prevention of skin disease. It is a collaborative network of dermatologists, dermatology nurses, health services researchers and patients throughout the UK and Ireland. Ideas are developed by the group and funding is then applied for. To find out how to get involved in clinical trials in dermatology, please visit the UK DCTN website: The British Skin Foundation (BSF) is a national charity that funds up to eight larger projects and a similar number of smaller projects every year. Funding can also be obtained from the MRC, the Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK and many other charities. For more information about the BSF and to make a donation, please visit the BSF website. Patient and public participation in research is very important to both researchers and funders. This should start from the very beginning of the research, when the researcher is developing the idea. Patients can also be involved in design of the research, can give feedback on patient information leaflets and consent forms and results as they become available.

Getting Involved in Dermatology Research

There are a variety of ways you can get involved with dermatology research, these include taking part in clinical trials, giving your views on research priorities and trial development, and sharing your experiences with the research community. Joining the UK Dermatology Clinical Trials Network (UK DCTN) is one way to do this. To learn more about the network and the work they do you can visit their website here. You can also search for clinical trials to join on the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) UK Clinical Trials Gateway. The trials listed here aren’t limited to dermatology research, but you can search by condition and location.

UK TREND

The UK Translational Research Network in Dermatology (UK TREND) has been established by the BAD to support, facilitate and further develop internationally-leading, translational research in skin biology and skin disease across the UK for the direct benefit of patient care. UK TREND is currently led by Professor Eugene Healy of the University of Southampton and governed by a Steering Committee comprising national experts in the UK. More information can be found on the UK TREND website. UK TREND successfully completed an e-Delphi priority setting exercise in translational dermatology research and the results have been published by the British Journal of Dermatology and are available online on the journal’s website.

BADGEM

BADGEM (British Association of Dermatologists Dermatology and Genetic Medicine) is a UK-wide clinical network dedicated to rare genetic diseases of the skin. Established jointly in 2013 by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) and the Centre for Dermatology and Genetic Medicine (DGEM), BADGEM is currently led by Professor Edel O’Toole of Queen Mary University of London and is governed by a Steering Committee consisting of national experts in the UK. In order to drive progress forward in key areas, three working subgroups of BADGEM have been established: (i) Informatics/Disease Registers, (ii) Clinical and Diagnostic Signposting and (iii) Clinical Trials, each led by experts in the UK. At present there is a rare skin disease registry active in Scotland and it is the aim of BADGEM to extend this register to England for a broader coverage of rare skin-related disorders. More information can be found on the BADGEM website.

BAD A*STAR Project

A*STAR stands for ‘The UK-Irish Atopic Eczema Systemic Therapy Register’ and is led by Professor Carsten Flohr of King’s College London and governed by a Steering Committee comprised of principle investigators and study collaborators. This is an observational study running in the UK and Ireland, seeking to assess the short and long-term safety and efficacy of systemic immuno-modulators for people of all ages with atopic eczema. This study will also look at the ‘real life’ cost of treating eczema, examining how much these therapies cost, compared to how well they work. Once patients sign up to participate in A*STAR, the team will follow their medical care via their local dermatologists. The overall aim is to help clinicians in their treatment decisions of patients with atopic eczema and through this to improve patient care. For further information about how to get involved, please visit the BAD A*STAR Website.

BADBIR Project

BADBIR stands for the British Association of Dermatologists Biologic Interventions Register (BADBIR) and is led by Professor Christopher Griffiths of the University of Manchester. BADBIR is a UK and Eire observational study seeking to assess the long-term safety of biologic treatments for psoriasis. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended that all patients in the UK receiving these new therapies for psoriasis should be registered with BADBIR. Once a patient has joined BADBIR, they are followed up via their dermatologist as BADBIR assesses their clinical details. For further information about how to get involved, please visit the BADBIR website.

British Journal of Dermatology

The British Journal of Dermatology(BJD) strives to publish the highest quality dermatological research. In so doing, the journal aims to advance understanding, management and treatment of skin disease and improve patient outcomes. Below are some suggested plain-language summaries of research articles that may be of interest to people living with skin conditions. Many more can be found on the BJD website:Hidradenitis suppurativa treated with secukinumabAlgorithm to detect in situ melanomasA multidimensional overview of the burden of psoriasisOccupational hand eczema and job changeIgG against S. aureus in paediatric atopic dermatitisNonalcoholic fatty liver disease in psoriasisMethotrexate injections for psoriasis