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Immunotherapy Combination May Reduce Skin Cancer Risk

Topical immunotherapy may help prevent the second most common type of skin cancer in the United States, according to study findings published in JCI Insight.
BY Katie Kosko
PUBLISHED September 25, 2019
Topical immunotherapy may help prevent the second most common type of skin cancer in the United States, according to study findings published in JCI Insight.

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, exam- ined a combination of two topical creams that were shown to clear precancerous skin lesions (actinic keratosis) in an earlier clinical trial.

The researchers used follow-up data from more than half of the 132 patients in the original trial for up to three years after initial treatment. The results showed that patients who had received a combina- tion of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), a chemotherapy medi- cation, and calcipotriol, a synthetic form of vitamin D, had a reduced risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma on the face and scalp compared with patients who had received 5-FU alone. Within the three years, two (7%) of 30 patients who received the combination developed squamous cell carci- noma. During the same period, 11 (28%) of 40 patients who received standard therapy devel- oped the disease.

Calcipotroil activates the immune system’s T cells, which in turn attack cancer cells, the study authors wrote.

The combination did not produce the same risk- reducing effect for the arms. The researchers sug- gested the creams may better penetrate the skin of the face and scalp than that of the arms, inducing a stronger immune response.

“We hope our findings will establish that the use of premalignant lesions as personalized therapeutic targets can train the immune system to fight against the progression to cancer,” senior author Dr. Shawn Demehri, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said in a press release.
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