Career Reflection: Dr. Melinda Gooderham on Rosacea


 

 

According to the National Rosacea Society, over 415 million people worldwide suffer from rosacea – and its effects can cause significant psychological, social, and occupational problems if left untreated. However, our knowledge of rosacea’s origins and how best to treat it remains elusive. Fortunately, researchers across the globe are striving towards improving our understanding of rosacea – and, more importantly, expanding the inventory of treatments available to meet the specialized needs of patients.

Dr. Melinda Gooderham, an investigator who runs the SKiN Centre for Dermatology clinics in Peterborough and Coburg, Ontario, Canada, is at the forefront of clinical research into rosacea. A dermatology specialist, she has witnessed significant developments in our understanding of rosacea over the course of her research career.

“A couple things have changed actually,” Gooderham notes. “We used to call it acne rosacea like it was a form of acne. Now we know it’s more of an immune-mediated condition.”

These revelations have come about through clinical research trials, in which new or existing medical compounds are administered to patients with a given medical condition to assess their effectiveness at lessening or eliminating the symptoms and effects of that condition.

“Patients can be different based on their immune responses, which is genetically predisposed, right? So there’s an increased understanding that I think is a huge thing.”

Changes in the diagnostic approach – how doctors assess rosacea – have also come about through continued research.

“We used to subtype [rosacea],” Dr. Gooderham explains. “You have papulopastular, you have erythematotic, you have rhinophyma, you have ocular.”

Now, the focus is on a more individualized approach, recognizing that a person might have signs and symptoms from all four former subtypes.

“With combination therapies, we’ve got a lot closer to achieving that clear skin state, which was really challenging with some of our older therapies,” she relates.

That cuts to the core of why Dr. Gooderham invests her time and practices’ resources into clinical research.

“Once you get clear skin, how does that make such a difference in the quality of life compared to almost clear skin? … Once you reach that clear state, you are more likely to stay clear than if you’re just sort of hovering at the almost clear,” she explains.

As such, Dr. Gooderham encourages patients to always be forthright and provide as much information as possible that may relate to skin conditions they’re suffering from.

“Things like skin pain, itchy eyes, gritty eyes, that sort of thing – you have to tell your doctor about your symptoms, because we can only see the signs,” she explains. “Tell your doctor because maybe there are new treatments or new research studies that you can be a part of based on your symptoms in addition to your signs.”

The effects are tangible, and Dr. Gooderham has witnessed the profound impact of finding effective treatments through research trials first-hand.

“I do remember this one patient who was unemployed. And in the study, we got her rosacea cleared up, and on the final study visit, she’s like, ‘oh, I just need to borrow your mirror so I can touch up my makeup. I’m going for a job interview.’ And that was when I was like, ‘we did our job.’ She was unemployed, and she’s going for a job interview. That was one of the best things.’”

To learn more about Research Trials facilitated by experienced investigators like Dr. Gooderham, and how you can participate in one, check out ResearchTrials.org.