IMAGE: When patients stop taking vismodegib, basal cell tumors often grow back. view more
Credit: Michigan Medicine
ANN ARBOR, Michigan — What happens when the most common and least threatening type of cancer gets complicated?
A new study pinpoints a mechanism that controls how basal cell cancers respond to treatment and offers new ideas for controlling this disease when it gets tricky.
Basal cell carcinomas are incredibly common – somewhere between 1 million to 3 million diagnosed each year – and rarely life-threatening. They’re most often removed through surgery. But for a small minority of patients, they can be a bigger problem.
In some cases, the cancer cannot be surgically removed, often because of where it’s found. A small portion of patients have an inherited condition called basal cell nevus syndrome, or Gorlin syndrome, which causes hundreds of basal cell tumors to develop over their lifetime.
Enter the drug vismodegib. It’s an early success story among targeted therapies, developed to hit a key pathway in basal cell carcinoma called Hedgehog. By blocking Hedgehog, the cancer cells die.
But there’s one catch: when patients stop taking the drug, the cancer often grows back at the same site.
“It’s a very
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