Email Newsletter, Volume 1, Issue 1
New treatment for advanced basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, and in its advanced stages it has the potential to be life-threatening, with limited treatment options.
An international phase II study headed by Aleksandar Sekulic, M.D., Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Arizona, has led to FDA approval of a first-of-its-kind drug to help advanced basal cell carcinoma patients. The study found that the drug vismodegib (Erivedge) was able to effectively shrink advanced basal cell carcinoma tumors in 43 percent of patients with locally advanced disease and in 30 percent of patients whose disease had metastasized to other organs. The results of this study appear in the June 7 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"This targeted therapy represents a new paradigm in cancer treatment," Dr. Sekulic said. "Erivedge is able to shrink a tumor by targeting and shutting down a molecular signaling pathway that fuels the cancer cell growth. These findings are very exciting because we haven't had any therapies before that worked to this degree for patients with advanced basal cell carcinoma." Dr. Sekulic says more research is needed to determine if the drug has the potential to improve treatment for patients with earlier stages of the disease, those with multiple basal cell carcinomas and those with a genetic predisposition to the disease.
Basal cell carcinoma accounts for approximately 80 percent of all diagnosed skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease occurs when a basal cell develops a mutation in its DNA, causing it to multiply rapidly, with the potential of forming a cancerous tumor. The disease is typically curable by surgery when diagnosed early. But when the cancer reaches an advanced stage, surgery is not always an option or can be disfiguring. Basal cell carcinoma can also be life-threatening if left untreated or if it further advances into the skin, bone and tissue.
The international study led by Dr. Sekulic included researchers from MD Anderson Cancer Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, Sint-Augustinus Hospital, University of Colorado Cancer Center, Sarah Cannon Research Institute, University of California, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University, Genentech Inc., and the Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein. For information about cancer clinical trials at Mayo Clinic, call 507-538-7623.
Watch a video of Dr. Sekulic discussing this study.
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