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Emerging Therapies for Skin Cancer Treatment

he disease by stimulating the immune system to reject and destroy tumors. Studies have demonstrated that it can result in cancer regression in 50 percent of melanoma patients who do not respond to other treatments.

Topical immunotherapy was recently approved by the FDA for the treatment of basal cell carcinoma and actinic keratosis, the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer. A cream is applied to the skin every day for several weeks, helping to break down the lesion and regenerate healthy skin, essentially jumpstarting the body’s immune system to fight the lesion.

“Scientists are now attempting to harness the immunological benefits that appear to be effective against a small number of melanomas,” said Dr. Tsao. “While immunotherapy has not yet produced the types of responses hoped for by investigators, research continues to try to find effective immunotherapies.”

Stem Cells
“There is now some evidence that stem cells exist in cancers,” said Dr. Tsao. “Stem cells have the potential to divide without limit to replenish other cells, in this case, cancer cells.”

Stem cells respond to cells such as fibroblasts, or connective tissue cells, in the normal tissue, and they contribute to the development of an entire organ. As such, a more recent view of cancer is that the entire tumor mirrors the development of an organ. In this regard, new blood vessels are formed in a process termed angiogenesis, which is known to be a critical event in malignant transformation of skin cancer. During angiogenesis new blood vessels feed diseased tissues, destroy normal tissues and allow tumor cells to escape into the circulation and lodge in other organs causing tumor metastases.

“Research is trying to find therapies that will enhance cancer cell death, minimize invasion, diminish angiogenesis and increase the immune attack,” said Dr. Tsao. “The greatest potential lies with directing therapies against cancer stem cel
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