Topical application of bleaching phenols; In-vivo studies and mechanism of action relevant to melanoma treatment

Vidhya Hariharan, Timothy Toole, Jared Klarquist, Jeffrey Mosenson, B. Jack Longley, I. Caroline Le Poole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Skin depigmentation represents a well-established treatment for extensive vitiligo and may likewise be suited to prevent tumor recurrences and as a prophylactic treatment of familial melanoma, as common bleaching agents are cytotoxic to melanocytes. Effective melanoma prevention requires a bleaching agent-induced loss of exposed melanocytes supported by an immune response to distant pigment cells. Studies on human explant cultures treated with depigmenting agents such as 4-tertiary butyl phenol (4-TBP) or monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone (MBEH) showed a significant increase in the migration of Langerhans cells toward the dermis only upon treatment with MBEH, thus suggesting selective elicitation of an immune response. To assess the depigmenting potential of bleaching agents in vivo, 4-TBP and MBEH were topically applied to C57BL/6 wild type as well as k14-SCF transgenic, epidermally pigmented mice. MBEH-induced significant skin depigmentation in both strains was not observed upon treatment with 4-TBP. Cytokine expression patterns in skin treated with MBEH support activation of a Th1-mediated immune response corresponding to an influx of T cells and macrophages. Importantly, despite insensitivity of tumor cells to MBEH-induced cytotoxicity, significantly retarded tumor growth was observed in B16 challenged k14-SCF mice pretreated with MBEH, likely due to an abundance of cytotoxic T cells accompanied by an increased expression of Th1 and Th17 cytokines. These data support the use of MBEH as a prophylactic treatment for melanoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-126
Number of pages12
JournalMelanoma Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • 4-tertiary butyl phenol
  • depigmentation
  • familial melanoma
  • monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone
  • tyrosinase related protein-1
  • tyrosinase related protein-2 tyrosinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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