Checkpoint inhibitor shrinks advanced squamous cell skin cancer
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Credit: MD Anderson Cancer Center

HOUSTON – Clinical trials show that an immune checkpoint inhibitor shrinks the tumors of nearly half of patients with an incurable, advanced form of a common skin cancer, an international team led by a researcher at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center reports in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“These results mark a potential paradigm shift in the treatment of patients with advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, who to date have had very limited results with chemotherapy and targeted therapies,” said lead author Michael Migden, M.D., associate professor of Dermatology and of Head and Neck Surgery.

Migden is principal investigator of the international, multicenter phase II registrational clinical trial of cemiplimab, an immune checkpoint inhibitor that works by blocking PD1, a surface receptor on T cells that shuts down immune response to cancer.

Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer, with an estimated 1 million new cases diagnosed annually. More than 95 percent of patients are cured by surgery and radiation at the disease’s early stages. But for the fraction who progress, there are no systemic therapies approved as a standard of care, the researchers

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