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Important Findings for Skin Cancer Research

Dr. Marc Winnefeld, Elisabeth Wurzer, Katrin Schmidt, Dr. Stefan Gallinat and Dr. Horst Wenck
Part of the proud Beiersdorf research team (f.l.t.r.): Dr. Marc Winnefeld, Katrin Schmidt, and Elisabeth Wurzer

A brand-new chapter in basic cancer research has now been opened by a team of Beiersdorf scientists: Dr. Marc Winnefeld, Elisabeth Wurzer, Katrin Schmidt, Dr. Stefan Gallinat and Dr. Horst Wenck in close cooperation with the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the brand Eucerin brought squamous cell carcinoma under the microscope. This subtype of the so-called “white” skin cancer is caused by UV radiation. “For us it was important to better understand the development of “white” skin cancer” says Marc Winnefeld. Until now we assumed that – with respect to their biological stage – exclusively younger skin cells (stem cells) are possible origins of “white” skin cancer. “Through our research results we now know that actinic keratosis (benign preliminary stage of the disease) as well as the squamous cell carcinoma “SCC” (the malignant type) can develop from two completely differently differentiated skin cells,” says the biologist. Consequently, already specialized cells now also come into the researchers’ focus.

Appeal for Other Disciplines

At the beginning of the year the project group received publishing accolades for its pioneering work: they published a much noticed article in the renowned science magazine “Nature Communications.” Professor Frank Lyko, Head of the Department Epigenetics at DKFZ in Heidelberg is also part of the team. “The excellent expertise on the subject of skin and the opportunity to pursue long-term prospects,” distinguish the cooperation with Beiersdorf, which has been in place since 2008. For Lyko, the outstanding communication with the team of research partners adds to this: “Results, problems and future plans are always discussed openly and in detail.” The value of the new findings is clear to Lyko: “They make it possible to diagnose squamous cell carcinomas more precisely and thereby also allow tailored therapies.” And Marc Winnefeld adds: “The results are also relevant for the cosmetics industry, for example for developing new kinds of protection concepts for sun products.”

Gitta Neufang, Global Head of Medical Management Derma
Dr. Gitta Neufang, Global Head of Medical Management Derma

Strengthening Eucerin’s Medicinal Skin Care Competence

Gitta Neufang, Global Head of Medical Management Derma: “For Eucerin it is important to strengthen our medicinal skin care competence with Beiersdorf research data. Especially on the topic of sun care and skin cancer prevention, the latest results are relevant for dermatologists. That’s why we will present the data with Professor Frank Lyko at the EADV in Paris.”

“Research spirit is part of our DNA”

For the current project Beiersdorf upgraded its research infrastructure: In order to be able to easily identify and interpret the over 850,000 different methylation markers in human DNA a cluster computer with 120 cores and 750GB of storage were also installed in the lab. “Research spirit is part of Beiersdorf’s DNA,” Marc Winnefeld sums up. “The use of the most advanced technologies is important for us to investigate the various skin conditions.”


Recognizable and Treatable
The squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common malignant “white” skin tumor after basal cell carcinoma. It occurs most often on sun-exposed areas so that people who are exposed to a large amount of UV radiation are especially at risk. Today actinic keratoses are considered the preliminary stage of SCC. They are red or skin-colored, hardened, raw areas on the surface of the skin. The cancer SCC makes up between 20 and 50 percent of skin tumors. Although it can often be successfully removed in surgery, there are cases in which an increased probability of metastases formation is observed. The average age of those affected by the disease is about 70. Men are more frequently affected than women.


About the editor: Diana Lühmann

Since 2014, Diana has been responsible for R&D Communications at Beiersdorf. Prior to that, she was editor-in-chief of the Beiersdorf intranet and responsible for various HR, Brands, digital and strategic communications topics and projects. For our blog, Diana dives into the fascinating world of research and development and takes us with her to peek behind the scenes of our skin research.

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