Sebocyte-Like Melanocytes—Additional Relevant (and Behind the Scenes) Historical Information
The comment, “The term ‘sebocyte-like melanocyte’ was first proposed by Eftychiades et al in 1996 to designate a distinctive type of melanocyte with scalloped nuclei and abundant vacuolated cytoplasm” appears in an article in the November 2015 issue of this journal about noting this cytologic variant of melanocyte in primary cutaneous melanoma.1 It is commendable that the authors of this work even cited the work by A. Bernard Ackerman and coauthors because that publication appeared in a journal that is not indexed by PubMed nor is it searchable by an on-line Google or Google Scholar search. That journal, Dermatopathology: Practical & Conceptual, was founded in 1995 by Bernie Ackerman. By the way, it is the second dermatopathology journal founded by him (the first journal he founded is this very journal—The American Journal of Dermatopathology). Unless one has old copies of Dermatopathology: Practical & Conceptual or knows that Derm101.com is the current repository of this journal, published articles in it are essentially hidden. In addition, if one goes on-line to Derm101.com, one must be a subscriber to the Web site to access the journal. Even then, if one searches the term “sebocyte-like melanocyte” on that Web site, one only receives the 2 articles2,3 referenced by these authors in their work1 and not extremely pertinent follow-up correspondence. In short, these authors are not at fault for not being aware of the subsequent Letter-to-the-Editor on sebocyte-like melanocytes in Dermatopathology: Practical & Conceptual that alerted Bernie Ackerman and coauthors that they had actually made a rediscovery rather than an original observation.4 I know this information because from the mid to the late 1990s, I was working side-by-side on a daily basis with Bernie Ackerman in 2 capacities—as his professional colleague at The Institute for Dermatopathology and as Associate Editor of Dermatopathology: Practical & Conceptual (Bernie Ackerman was the Editor). Even though these events transpired 20 years ago, I clearly recall them because of how the story played out.
1996 was the second year that the quarterly journal Dermatopathology: Practical & Conceptual was in publication. In the first issue of that year (Fig. 1) appeared 2 articles coauthored by Bernie Ackerman on sebocyte-like melanocytes—one detailed the findings in melanocytic nevi and the other in a case of metastatic melanoma. Neither of these articles had any references because in the authors own words, “no description of sebocyte-like melanocytes could be found by us in the literature of dermatology, general pathology, or dermatopathology.”2 and “The sebocyte-like melanocyte is a cytologically distinct variant of melanocyte that has not been reported on previously.”3 Shortly thereafter, Bernie Ackerman and coauthors would find out how wrong those statements regarding sebocyte-like melanocytes actually were. When correspondence was received from colleagues in Valencia, Spain indicating that they themselves have not only seen this phenomenon, and “there have been several papers dealing with this unusual feature in the last 60 years,”4 Bernie was livid. He was aghast that they had missed not just one, but more than one prior publication on this subject. “How did this happen?” he increduously thundered at the time. It was also one of the extremely rare occasions in which I heard Bernie curse. He handed the reference list in the Letter-to-the-Editor to one of the trainees, instructed them to “proceed with dispatch” to the library to retrieve the previously published articles.