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Basal Cell Carcinoma Medication

  • Author: Robert S Bader, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
 
Updated: Sep 15, 2015
 

Medication Summary

Medications used for the treatment of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) include antineoplastic agents such as 5-fluorouracil and imiquimod; the photosensitizing agent methyl aminolevulinate cream; and the acetylenic retinoid tazarotene.

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Antineoplastic Agents

Class Summary

The most common chemotherapeutic agent used in superficial basal cell carcinoma is topical 5-fluorouracil.

Fluorouracil topical (Efudex)

 

5-Fluorouracil topical 5% cream or solution is used topically for the management of superficial BCC. It interferes with DNA synthesis by blocking methylation of deoxyuridylic acid and inhibiting thymidylate synthetase and, subsequently, cell proliferation.

Interferon alfa-2b (Intron-A)

 

Interferon alfa-2b is a protein product manufactured with recombinant DNA technology. The mechanism of antitumor activity is not clearly understood; however, direct antiproliferative effects against malignant cells and modulation of host immune response may be important.

As an investigational drug for nodular BCC, interferon alfa-2b was used in a randomized, placebo-controlled multicenter study with 172 patients. Intralesional injections of 1.5 million U administered 3 times/wk for 3 wk yielded an 86% complete-response rate, compared with 29% for placebo. A similar study did not show efficacy for morpheaform or aggressive BCCs.

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Antineoplastics, Hedgehog Pathway Inhibitor

Class Summary

The Hedgehog signaling pathway is important in embryogenesis, but in adults, it is mostly inactive. Signaling is relayed by key proteins including Smoothened homologue (SMO). Hedgehog ligand-expressing cancerous epithelial cells that are activated by the hedgehog signaling pathway may cause growth-promotion.

Vismodegib (Erivedge)

 

Vismodegib is a Hedgehog (Hh) pathway inhibitor. Vismodegib binds to and inhibits SMO, a transmembrane protein involved in Hedgehog signal transduction. This agent is indicated for treatment of adults with metastatic basal cell carcinoma or with locally advanced basal cell carcinoma that has recurred following surgery, or those who are not candidates for surgery or radiation.

Sonidegib (Odomzo)

 

Sonidegib binds to and inhibits SMO, a transmembrane protein involved in Hedgehog signal transduction. Indicated for adults with locally advanced basal cell carcinoma that has recurred following surgery or radiation therapy, or those who are not candidates for surgery or radiation therapy.

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Photosensitizing Agent, Topical

Class Summary

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) for basal cell carcinomas is the process of using specific wavelengths of light to photoexcite porphyrins that have been applied to neoplastic and preneoplastic cells. This increased energy is rapidly absorbed by adjacent tissue oxygen, causing the formation of singlet oxygen radicals. These radicals rapidly react with adjacent tissue and destroy it.

Methyl aminolevulinate (Metvixia)

 

Methyl aminolevulinate cream is a porphyrin precursor used in combination with narrow-band, red-light illumination for nonhyperkeratotic, nonpigmented actinic keratoses. When used with photodynamic therapy, the accumulation of photoactive porphyrins produces a photodynamic reaction that results in a cytotoxic process dependent upon the simultaneous presence of oxygen.

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Keratolytic Agents

Class Summary

These agents decrease cohesiveness of abnormal hyperproliferative keratinocytes and may reduce potential for malignant degeneration. It modulates keratinocyte differentiation.

Tazarotene (Avage, Fabior, Tazorac)

 

Tazarotene is a retinoid prodrug with an active metabolite that modulates differentiation and proliferation of epithelial tissue; it also may have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. It is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treating basal cell carcinoma.

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Topical Skin Products

Class Summary

Products that induce cytokines, including interferon alpha, have been shown to be effective.

Imiquimod (Aldara)

 

The precise mechanism of imiquimod for superficial BCC is unknown. It may increase tumor infiltration by lymphocytes, dendritic cells, and macrophages. It is indicated for biopsy-confirmed primary nonfacial superficial BCC in adults with normal immune systems. Additionally, tumors must not exceed 2 cm in diameter on certain areas of the body. Imiquimod is indicated only when surgical methods are not appropriate.

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Robert S Bader, MD Dermatologist, Section of Dermatology, Department of Medicine, Broward Health - North

Robert S Bader, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Florida Medical Association, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, American Society for MOHS Surgery

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Andrew Scott Kennedy, MD Physician-in-Chief, Radiation Oncology

Andrew Scott Kennedy, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Association for Cancer Research, American Society for Radiation Oncology, Radiological Society of North America, Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, American Society of Clinical Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Luigi Santacroce, MD Assistant Professor, Medical School, State University at Bari, Italy

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Laura Diomede University of Bari School of Medicine, Italy

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Chief Editor

William D James, MD Paul R Gross Professor of Dermatology, Vice-Chairman, Residency Program Director, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

William D James, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

Sanjiv S Agarwala, MD Chief of Oncology and Hematology, St Luke's Cancer Center, St Luke's Hospital and Health Network; Professor, Temple University School of Medicine

Sanjiv S Agarwala, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for Cancer Research, American Society for Head and Neck Surgery, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, and European Society for Medical Oncology

Disclosure: BMS Honoraria Speaking and teaching; Novartis Consulting fee Consulting; Merck Consulting fee Consulting

Michael Giono Barakat California Surgical Institute

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Daniel Berg, MD, FRCP(C) Professor of Dermatology, Director of Dermatologic Surgery, University of Washington School of Medicine

Daniel Berg, MD, FRCP(C) is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology, and American Society for Dermatologic Surgery

Disclosure: Genentech Honoraria Review panel membership

Gregory Caputy, MD, PhD, FICS Chief Surgeon, Aesthetica Plastic and Laser Surgery Center, Inc

Gregory Caputy, MD, PhD, FICS is a member of the following medical societies: American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, International College of Surgeons, International College of Surgeons US Section, Pan-Pacific Surgical Association, and Wound Healing Society

Disclosure: Syneron Corporation Salary Speaking and teaching

Edward F Chan, MD Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Edward F Chan, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatopathology, and Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Robert A Copeland Jr, MD Chair, Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Howard University College of Medicine

Robert A Copeland Jr, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mark T Duffy, MD, PhD Consulting Staff, Division of Oculoplastic, Orbito-facial, Lacrimal and Reconstructive Surgery, Green Bay Eye Clinic, BayCare Clinic; Medical Director, Advanced Cosmetic Solutions, A BayCare Clinic

Mark T Duffy, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Medical Association, American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Sigma Xi, and Society for Neuroscience

Disclosure: Allergan - Botox Cosmetic Honoraria Speaking and teaching

Hon-Vu Q Duong, MD Clinical Instructor of Ophthalmology and Ophthalmic Pathology, Westfield-Nevada Eye and Ear; Senior Lecturer of Neurosciences:Anatomy and Physiology, Nevada State College

Hon-Vu Q Duong, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Dirk M Elston, MD Director, Ackerman Academy of Dermatopathology, New York

Dirk M Elston, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Jaime R Garza, MD, DDS, FACS Consulting Staff, Private Practice

Jaime R Garza, MD, DDS, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American College of Surgeons, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Society of Plastic Surgeons

Disclosure: Allergan None Speaking and teaching; LifeCell None Consulting; GID, Inc. Grant/research funds Other

Shahin Javaheri, MD Chief, Department of Plastic Surgery, Martinez Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic; Consulting Staff, Advanced Aesthetic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery

Shahin Javaheri, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Shang I Brian Jiang, MD Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine and Dermatology, Director, Dermatologic and Mohs Micrographic Surgery, Program Director, UCSD Dermatologic and Mohs Surgery Fellowship, University of California School of Medicine, San Diego

Shang I Brian Jiang, MD, is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Mohs Surgery, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, and Association of Professors of Dermatology

Disclosure: DUSA Corporation Grant/research funds PI for Industry Sponsored Clincal Trial

Klaus-Dieter Lessnau, MD, FCCP Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine; Medical Director, Pulmonary Physiology Laboratory; Director of Research in Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Medicine, Section of Pulmonary Medicine, Lenox Hill Hospital

Klaus-Dieter Lessnau, MD, FCCP is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Thoracic Society, and Society of Critical Care Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA Professor of Otolaryngology, Dentistry, and Engineering, University of Colorado School of Medicine

Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, and American Head and Neck Society

Disclosure: Covidien Corp Consulting fee Consulting; US Tobacco Corporation Unrestricted gift Unknown; Axis Three Corporation Ownership interest Consulting; Omni Biosciences Ownership interest Consulting; Sentegra Ownership interest Board membership; Medvoy Ownership interest Management position; Cerescan Imaging Consulting; Headwatersmb Consulting fee Consulting; Venturequest Royalty Consulting

Maurice Y Nahabedian, MD, FACS Associate Professor, Department of Plastic Surgery, Georgetown University Hospital

Maurice Y Nahabedian, MD, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Plastic Surgeons, American College of Surgeons, American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Johns Hopkins Medical and Surgical Association, and Northeastern Society of Plastic Surgeons

Disclosure: Lifecell corp Honoraria Speaking and teaching

Samia Nawaz, MBBS, MD Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, University of Colorado Health Science Center

Samia Nawaz, MBBS, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society for Clinical Pathology, American Society of Cytopathology, and International Academy of Pathology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Ron W Pelton, MD, PhD Private Practice, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Ron W Pelton, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American College of Surgeons, American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, AO Foundation, and Colorado Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Michael L Ramsey, MD Director, Mohs Surgery Fellowship, Co-Director, Procedural Dermatology Fellowship, Department of Dermatology, Geisinger Medical Center

Michael L Ramsey, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology, and Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Rana Rofagha Sajjadian, MD Clinical Instructor, Department of Dermatology, University of Irvine, California; Division of Mohs Surgery, Department of Dermatology, Southern California Permanente Medical Group

Rana Rofagha Sajjadian, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, and American Society for MOHS Surgery

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Thomas M Roy, MD Chief, Division of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine, Quillen Mountain Home Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Fellowship Program Director, East Tennessee State University, James H Quillen College of Medicine

Thomas M Roy, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Thoracic Society, Southern Medical Association, and Wilderness Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

M Sherif Said, MD, PhD Associate Professor of Pathology, Director of Head and Neck Pathology, Department of Pathology, University of Colorado School of Medicine

M Sherif Said, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society for Clinical Pathology and College of American Pathologists

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Ali Sajjadian, MD, FACS Private Practice, Newport Beach, California; Former Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery, Former Director of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Satellite Centers, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Ali Sajjadian, MD, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, California Medical Association, Northeastern Society of Plastic Surgeons, and PennsylvaniaMedical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Negar Sajjadian, MD Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Shariati Hospital

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Wayne Karl Stadelmann, MD Stadelmann Plastic Surgery, PC

Wayne Karl Stadelmann, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Surgeons, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, New Hampshire Medical Society, Northeastern Society of Plastic Surgeons, and Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Katherine Szyfelbein, MD Staff Physician, Department of Dermatology, Boston University, Boston Medical Center

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Salary Employment

R Stan Taylor, MD The JB Howell Professor in Melanoma Education and Detection, Departments of Dermatology and Plastic Surgery, Director, Skin Surgery and Oncology Clinic, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

R Stan Taylor, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Mohs Surgery, American Dermatological Association, American Medical Association, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Christian Medical & Dental Society, and Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Image 1: Kelly Nelson (Photographer) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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A pink, scaly lesion on the skin. Superficial basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Clinically, an erythematous, this tumor is often misdiagnosed as eczematous dermatitis or guttate psoriasis and is often difficult to distinguish clinically from Bowen disease (squamous cell carcinoma in situ). Features that suggest the diagnosis of superficial BCC are the absence of significant white, adherent scale, and a history of the lesion remaining unchanged for several months or years. Treatment options for this tumor include electrodesiccation and curettage, surgical excision, cryosurgery, 5-fluorouracil, 5% imiquimod cream, and superficial radiographic therapy. Electrodesiccation and curettage is the modality most commonly used, with a cure rate of approximately 95%.
Basal cell carcinoma.
A 68-year-old patient presenting with an advanced basal cell carcinoma (BCC) of the right periorbital region, frontal view (Images courtesy of M Abraham Kuriakose, DDS, MD)
Lateral view of face showing extent of tumor (Images courtesy of M Abraham Kuriakose, DDS, MD)
Basal cell carcinoma of the right lower lid.
Biopsy-proven basal cell carcinoma of the upper lid margin. Note the loss of cilia (madarosis) in the area of the tumor.
Medial canthal/lower lid basal cell. Note the pearly nodular surface with characteristic telangiectatic vessels. Proximity to the lacrimal system will impact its treatment and reconstruction.
Nodular basal cell carcinoma.
Nodular basal cell carcinoma appearing as a waxy, translucent papule with central depression and a few small erosions.
Scale, erythema, and a threadlike raised border are present in this superficial basal cell carcinoma on the trunk.
Large, superficial basal cell carcinoma.
Basal cell carcinoma (Image courtesy of Hon Pak, MD)
Pigmented basal cell carcinoma.
Pigmented basal cell carcinoma.
Pigmented basal cell carcinoma has features of nodular basal cell carcinoma with the addition of dark pigmentation from melanin deposition. The pigmentation often has the appearance of dark droplets in the lesion, as shown here.
This infiltrating basal cell cancer has ill-defined borders and telangiectases.
This translucent pink papule has telangiectases and a crusted erosion, characteristic of nodular basal cell carcinoma.
Large, scarlike morpheaform basal cell cancer.
Nodular basal cell carcinoma. Nodular aggregates of basalioma cells are present in the dermis and exhibit peripheral palisading and retraction artifact. Melanin is also present within the tumor and in the surrounding stroma, as seen in pigmented basal cell carcinoma.
Histology of superficial basal cell carcinoma. Nests of basaloid cells are seen budding from the undersurface of the epidermis.
Histologic pattern of a well-differentiated basal cell carcinoma (original magnification X140). (Image courtesy of Prof Pantaleo Bufo, University of Foggia, Italy)
Histologic pattern of a well-differentiated basal cell carcinoma (original magnification X250). (Image courtesy of Prof Pantaleo Bufo, University of Foggia, Italy)
Micronodular basal cell carcinoma often has an absence of retraction artifact. The characteristic histology is small size and uniformity of the tumor nodules. (Image courtesy of Shang I Brian Jiang, MD)
Infiltrative basal cell carcinoma. Tumor cells are arranged in narrow strands, and mucin-rich stroma is often present. (Image courtesy of Shang I Brian Jiang, MD)
Keratotic basal cell carcinoma. Rare type characterized by keratocysts. (Image courtesy of Shang I Brian Jiang, MD)
Basosquamous basal cell carcinoma. Foci of neoplastic cells with squamous differentiation are present. (Image courtesy of Shang I Brian Jiang, MD)
Histology of superficial basal cell carcinoma. Nests of basaloid cells are seen budding from the undersurface of the epidermis. (Image courtesy of Michael L Ramsey, MD)
 
 
 
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