Even so, non-surgical options are needed, said senior researcher Dr. Kavita Sarin, an associate professor of dermatology at Stanford University, in Redwood City, Calif.
In some cases, for example, the skin cancer may be located in an area — like the face — where surgery could leave scarring that patients want to avoid. Plus, Sarin said, many people develop multiple basal cell carcinomas over time, which means returning for repeat surgeries.
A couple of topical medications are approved for BCC, but only for “superficial” cancers, which account for a minority of cases, Sarin said.
The study — published Aug. 6 in Clinical Cancer Research— was a small mid-stage trial, designed to see whether the topical medication worked at all.
And for most of the patients, Sarin’s team found, it did: Of 33 skin cancers treated for six weeks, 17 completely resolved, and six more partially responded — meaning they shrunk by at least 30% in diameter.
The gel seemed most effective against superficial BCC, with all of those skin tumors shrinking or disappearing, the researchers found. But about two-thirds of other tumor types responded, too — including nodular BCC, the most common form of the cancer, and “infiltrative” tumors, which can invade the skin more deeply and widely.