print

Drug for High Risk Basal Cell Skin Cancer: October 31, 2012

A lifetime of sun exposure caught up with Bob Davies.

“They have found different spots, mostly on my arms and on my back, from being out in the sun when I was younger,” says Bob Davies, who battles with basal cell carcinoma.

Bandages mark spots on his face and arm where a doctor removed something suspicious.

“He will take a cut out of it and have it tested to see if it’s cancerous or a basal cell. And I’ve got two spots that he’s in the process of testing,” says Davies.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer. It’s typically removed by a dermatologist but some people have it much worse than Davies.

“The really bad ones are the ones that come back after surgical incision, they can be quite disfiguring. It can be close to the eye, close to the ear, close to the nose,” says Dr. Lowell Hart, an oncologist / hematologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Radiation therapy was often used in advanced or problematic basal cell cancers. Until the FDA approved a new drug called Erivedge.

“Patients that have basal-cell cancer in places that are too large to remove or they came back after radiation therapy or after surgery. Or ones that have metastasized, or spread to another part of the body, are candidate with treatment with this drug,” says Dr. Hart.

Researchers are combating cancers by determining their biologic pathways. If a pathway is not turned off, cells and tumors grow.  The focus now is on drug inhibitors that disrupt the pathway.

“Patients with the most severe basal cell cancer that have been treated with this drug it has been very, very dramatic. You see over a short period of time when you take away the fire that makes the cancer grow what happens to the cancer,” says Dr. Hart.

A victory against basal cell cancer may grow and spread to research for other life-threatening diseases.