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Advanced basal cell carcinoma, the hedgehog pathway, and treatment options – role of smoothened inhibitors

Authors Fecher L, Sharfman W

Received 21 January 2015

Accepted for publication 11 May 2015

Published 6 November 2015 Volume 2015:9 Pages 129—140


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Doris Benbrook

Leslie A Fecher,1,3 William H Sharfman2

1Department of Internal Medicine and Dermatology, Indiana University Health Simon Cancer Center, Indianapolis, IN, USA; 2The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD, USA, 3Department of Internal Medicine and Dermatology, University of Michigan, MI, USA

Abstract: Cutaneous basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common human cancer and its incidence is rising worldwide. Ultraviolet radiation exposure, including tanning bed use, as well as host factors play a role in its development. The majority of cases are treated and cured with local therapies including surgery. Yet, the health care costs of diagnosis and treatment of BCCs in the US is substantial. In the United States, the cost of nonmelanoma skin cancer care in the Medicare population is estimated to be US$426 million per year. While rare, locally advanced BCCs that can no longer be controlled with surgery and/or radiation, and metastatic BCCs do occur and can be associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Vismodegib (GDC-0449), a smoothened inhibitor targeted at the hedgehog pathway, is the first US Food and Drug Association (FDA)-approved agent in the treatment of locally advanced, unresectable, and metastatic BCCs. This class of agents appears to be changing the survival rates in advanced BCC patients, but appropriate patient selection and monitoring are important. Multidisciplinary assessments are essential for the optimal care and management of these patients. For some patients with locally advanced BCC, treatment with a hedgehog inhibitor may eliminate the need for an excessively disfiguring or morbid surgery.

Keywords: basal cell carcinoma, hedgehog, smoothened, vismodegib, Gorlin, basal cell nevus syndrome

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