New Drug Might Treat Basal Cell Carcinoma with a Pill

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. In fact, it is the most common of all cancers.

There are about 1 million new cases in the US each year. Usually basal cell skin cancers are easily treated, but they often require surgery and can leave unsightly scars. A new drug might treat this common skin cancer with a pill.

When they are superficial, BCCs can be cured with a topical anticancer medication such as 5-fluorouracil, or with an immune boosting cream called imiquimod.

If they are larger or nodular, then they can be treated with a simple surgical procedure such as electrodessication and curettage (where the tumor is scraped off the skin and gently burned with an electric current), or with a simple surgical excision.

More complicated basal cell carcinomas, or those in cosmetically sensitive areas, can be treated by Mohs surgery, a specific type of surgery where the dermatologist excises the cancer and examines the margins of the removed skin right in the office to ensure the tumor is completely removed before you leave.

Now for the first time, there is a pill in early stages of development that might cure basal cell carcinomas by attacking it at its mutated gene.

The drug, which counteracts the mutation found in all BCCs, was found to be effective in patients with advanced or metastatic basal cell carcinoma who were enrolled in a phase I clinical trial. The data were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting here in San Diego.

The drug is called GDC-0449 and is being developed by Genentech. If it turns out to be safe and effective (which won’t be known for some time), then it would be a significant breakthrough, potentially leading to treating many basal cell carcinomas with a pill instead of surgery.

Photo: Simulacrum,

4 thoughts on “New Drug Might Treat Basal Cell Carcinoma with a Pill”

  1. About a month ago I got a strange growth in my ear. I thought it was a pimple and accidentally scratched it, but it bled a lot and I realised it couldn’t be a pimple. Now it’s like a large smooth round blister filled with bright red blood but it’s not drying or healing. It’s about 5mm diameter and height. Should I get it checked by my dermatologist?

  2. @ Sil….Yes you should get that checked out. Basal cell or not, I’m sure you want to know for peace of mind. Sooner is much better than later!

    I’ve had Basal Cell cancer 3 times on my nose and had it removed by MOHS surgery the last two times. The last time they had to remove half of my nose and rebuild it from my forehead. It is called a forehead flap procedure, I’ve several pictures on my site of the cosmetic surgery and the healing process that followed.
    Exposure to way too much sunshine is what caused me to get the basal cell carcinoma.

    Even though I no longer work out in the sun, there is still a good chance that I’ll have more instances of basal cell. I can only hope that work on this pill moves quickly. That would certainly be a preferred method. I will say though that MOHS surgery isn’t all that bad. Other than taking longer, it’s about like a dentist visit to get a tooth pulled.

    As the article states, Basal Cell cancer is the most common, but it is also the easiest to prevent. Use commonsense when out in the sun, wear sunscreen and protective clothing. A good tan is pleasant to see but a disfigured face is somewhat less so. My grandmother used to say often how “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” With basal cell carcinomas that is very true.

  3. Well, I went and got it checked… just got back from the doctor’s office! It was a small angiom (a benign tumor made up of blood vessels inside, hence the bleeding) and the doctor removed it with laser.

    Thanks for your input, BTW. I use SPF 50 everyday since last year, by doc’s reccomendation.

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