Treatment of unresectable and metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma

Lee D. Cranmer, Candace Engelhardt, Sherif S. Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is an already common disorder with a rapidly increasing incidence. Treatment of early disease depends primarily on surgery or destructive techniques. In contrast to the frequency of early SCC, unresectable or metastatic SCC is relatively rare, but potentially life-threatening without clearly proven treatment options. Few rigorous studies of the treatment of advanced SCC have been undertaken. In the past, various agents have been explored in a limited fashion, including chemotherapy (cisplatin, fluoropyrimidines, bleomycin, doxorubicin), 13-cis-retinoic acid, and interferon-α2a. Clinical activity has been suggested by these trials, but their small sizes, heterogeneous patient populations, and lack of randomization have hindered the use of their results in defining treatment paradigms. Only one rigorous randomized trial has focused on cutaneous SCC. Enrolling 66 patients, that trial randomized patients at high recurrence risk to either observation or postoperative interferon-α2a and 13-cis-retinoic acid. This treatment did not improve time to recurrence or prevent secondary cutaneous SCC from developing. Though not in the metastatic setting, this study casts doubt on the ability of this regimen to control metastatic disease. Recently, agents targeting the human epidermal growth factor receptor (erlotinib, gefitinib, cetuximab) have displayed preliminary evidence of activity in phase II clinical trials and case series reports. Expression of this receptor is frequent in cutaneous SCC and appears to be prognostically adverse. Only the conduct of rigorous trials, with well-defined endpoints, adequate patient numbers, and preferably randomization, can prove the clinical efficacy of this promising treatment approach and define better therapy for this vexing clinical problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1320-1328
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma
  • Epidermal growth factor receptor
  • Skin cancer treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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