Developments in advanced non-melanoma skin cancer treatment and research continue to evolve. Dr. Anna Pavlick reviews important treatment considerations and discusses targeted therapy options.
Dr. Anna Pavlick is a medical oncologist with over 20 years of experience treating patients with skin cancer and is the founding Director of the Cutaneous Oncology Program at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian. To learn more about Dr. Pavlick, visit here.
How is advanced non-melanoma skin cancer treated?
Everybody’s locally advanced non-melanoma skin cancer really has to be looked at as a personal type of management.
There is no cookie-cutter answer to say, “Well you just cut it out, or you just radiate it.” Again, it’s going to be contingent upon where is this located, how extensive is it, what is the patient’s preference, what is the patient’s performance status? You know, when you talk about offering radiation, although it’s a very good therapeutic option for many of these tumors, there are some patients who can’t travel hours to get to a radiation facility, and radiation is given every day for several weeks. So that’s an option – though it’s a treatment option, it may not be a feasible option. And so I think there are multiple factors. If you cut it out, is the patient going to be left with a disfiguring outcome?
I know many times I get sent older patients because this is a disease many times of older patients, where they have these very large lesions and the thought of doing a surgery – not that you can’t – but can the patient withstand such an extensive procedure? What are they going to look like and what kind of functional deficits are you going to leave them with? You know, all of this really has to come into play, and then again, is the patient well enough tolerate a medical therapy that I have to offer? So this is why when you deal with these cancers, it really is a group effort. We all know the patient. We all get to see the patient.
And then we all get together and say, “Okay, what are the pros and cons, and really what is the optimal way for us to best serve this patient to get rid of their cancer but also preserve their quality of life?”
So other than surgery what other options are available to patients?
So surgery’s obviously the first and foremost because if you can take it out, it’s a one-and-done, patient can heal, patient can move on.
But again, depending on location, depending on extent of the disease, sometimes we consider radiation therapy, sometimes we consider medical therapy, which would mean using different types of systemic therapies, whether it be pills – depending upon the type of cancer it is – or even intravenous immunotherapy to help either control this disease and shrink it up, then allowing the surgeon to go in and remove it. Or, best case scenario is that the immunotherapy will completely eradicate the tumor and spare the patient from having to undergo any type of procedure.