September 3, 2009

Potential skin cancer treatment reported

U.S. scientists say they've developed a new trial drug therapy that shows promise in fighting advanced and metastatic basal cell skin cancer.

Researchers at the Virginia Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare in Arizona say the trial, known as the Hedgehog Study, demonstrates tumor shrinkage and limited side effects in patients.

Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, who led the study, said the findings are significant because there is no proven therapy for advanced basal cell carcinoma -- the most common cancer in the United States.

In a Phase I clinical trial, Von Hoff and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit demonstrated the drug developed by Genentech appeared to shrink tumors in locally advanced and metastatic basal cell carcinoma, while producing limited side effects.

The researchers said durable clinical benefits -- defined as tumor shrinkage visible on X-ray or other physical examination or improvement in symptoms without tumor growth -- was observed in 18 of 33 patients evaluated.

The study is reported in the online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine and is to appear in the journal's Sept. 17 issue.