Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Targeted therapy for skin cancer


Targeted therapy for skin cancer

Targeted therapy works by seeking out specific characteristics in cancer cells, such as gene mutations or proteins. Targeted therapy drugs are designed to attach themselves to those cells, to kill them or help other therapies, such as chemotherapy, work better.

Among the drugs used in targeted therapy are so-called hedgehog pathway inhibitors. The hedgehog signaling pathway is critical to healthy cell growth in the fetus. Cancer cells may re-activate the hedgehog pathways in adults, promoting tumor growth in some cases.

Targeted therapy drugs used to treat non-melanoma skin cancer include vismodegib (Erivedge®) and sonidegib (Odomzo®). Both are approved for rare cases of advanced basal cell carcinoma. Because these drugs target the hedgehog pathway, they should not be taken by women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.

Vemurafenib (Zelboraf®), dabrafenib (Tafinlar®) and trametinib (Mekinist®) are targeted therapy drugs approved to treat melanoma, a potentially aggressive form of skin cancer. Learn more about targeted therapy for melanoma.