By John Carruthers, staff writer, May 02, 2011
Dermatologist Kenneth Kraemer, MD, who works in the DNA Repair Section of the National Cancer Institute, has made a substantial career out of studying the rare genetic disorder xeroderma pigmentosum (XP). The autosomal recessive disorder leaves patients without the ability to repair the damage cause by ultraviolet light. Dr. Kraemer has studied XP patients at the National Institutes of Health since 1971, evaluating more than 100 patients and their family members free of charge. In addition to scientific breakthroughs — notably the use of oral retinoids to prevent skin cancer in XP patients — Dr. Kraemer has also taken the time to reach out to patients and family members suffering through the treatment process. He’s fostered the development of patient groups and attended patient funerals, and published more than 200 times in the scientific literature about XP and related DNA repair disorders — all while working as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Public Health Service.
“The disease is a very devastating one for the patients and the families, though many of them have learned to cope with the problems. We try to assist them in that effort.”
- Dr. Kraemer organized a multidisciplinary clinic at the NIH for evaluation, counseling, and research on XP and related DNA repair disorders.
- He has been the co-organizer of the DNA Repair Interest Group since 1985, as well as the first XP workshops to bring together researchers, clinicians, and patient support groups.
- He established the Academy’s XP Expert Research Group, which meets each year at the Annual Meeting. Dr. Kraemer also serves as the group’s co-chair.
- “A recent study showed that there was a more than 10,000-fold increase in the rate of skin cancer for these patients, so the goal is to diagnose early and institute measures of sun protection,” Dr. Kraemer said. “We deal with the patients, the families, their schools, and their environments. It’s a big issue.”
- “The ability to help the patients has been the most rewarding aspect of studying XP,” he said. “When we first stating working in the ’70s, there were very little known about the genetics of XP, the molecular biology, and very little in the way of protection. Now there is a lot more known about the genetics, and a lot better protection.”
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