Skin Cancer: Basal and Squamous Cell Overview

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Treating Skin Cancer - Basal and Squamous Cell TOPICS

Targeted therapy for basal and squamous cell skin cancers

Doctors have found some of the gene changes that make skin cancer cells different from normal cells, and they have begun to create drugs that attack these changes. These targeted drugs work differently from standard chemotherapy (chemo) drugs. They may work sometimes when chemo drugs don’t. And they may have less severe side effects.

An example of a targeted drug is vismodegib (Erivedge), which can be used to treat some advanced or recurrent basal cell skin cancers. It is very rare for basal cell cancers to reach an advanced stage, but when they do, these cancers can be hard to treat. Vismodegib has been shown to help shrink some tumors, although it’s not yet clear if it helps people live longer.

Side effects can include muscle spasms, joint pain, hair loss, fatigue, problems with taste, poor appetite and weight loss, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. Vismodegib can also cause women to stop having their periods for a time. This drug should not be taken by women who are pregnant or could become pregnant.

Last Medical Review: 02/24/2014
Last Revised: 02/24/2014