Melanoma and Pigmented Lesions

Premier Research Program

Penn's Abramson Cancer Center has one of the nation's outstanding programs dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of melanoma.


Melanoma Program Leader: Lynn M. Schuchter, MD


Research Highlights:


  • Our National Cancer Institute (NCI) approved and funded Melanoma Research Program was founded in 1978 and is considered by other melanoma scientists to be one of the leading programs in the country.
  • Penn's Melanoma program has been recognized by the NCI as "outstanding," the highest rating possible for a cancer research program. An "outstanding" rating signifies excellence in overall program quality, representation of relevant scientific disciplines, translation of new findings to the clinical setting, conduct of clinical trials, interaction of researchers, and caliber of program members and leadership.
  • The Penn/Wistar group is one of the two recipients of a National Cancer Institute Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant to seek new discoveries and approaches to preventing, diagnosing and treating skin cancers.
  • We continuously seek ways to not only decrease the suffering caused by Melanoma, but to cure it. We are developing and testing prevention, detection and treatment strategies including:
    • Understanding who's at risk for melanoma including genetic risk factors
    • Determining a melanoma patients' risks for occurrence and therefore appropriate treatment.
    • Finding newer and better ways to predict outcomes by studying current melanoma staging systems and their ability ability to predict outcomes .
    • Studying ways to determine predictors of positive sentinel lymph node in patients with thin melanomas.
    • Clinical trials collaboration with other centers to bring targeted therapies to large national Phase III status.
  • We are carrying out a number of clinical trials of new treatments for melanoma, and in particular for advanced melanoma. Our trials are based on research findings from our lab and clinical investigators.
  • Our researchers and clinicians are testing whether certain medications may help prevent moles from turning into melanoma.


Making History


Penn's Melanoma/Pigmented Lesion Clinic was founded in the early 1970s by Wallace H. Clark Jr., MD, who for decades was recognized as the premier expert in melanoma research and treatment.

Dr. Clarke was the first to identify the progressive stages from a mole to early melanoma, making it possible to detect melanoma at a stage when it can be cured.

We were one of the first in the country to establish a Pigmented Lesion Group (PLG) to provide information, evaluation, and genetic counseling for those at increased risk for melanoma.

Our PLG set the standard by creating a national model for melanoma screening.

Through this group's work at Penn and the adjacent Wistar Institute, we better understand risk factors for melanoma and risk factors associated with melanoma occurrence and effective treatments.

This Knowledge gained through our research allows us to better treat people with an elevated risk of melanoma and those who have the disease itself.