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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.

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. These drugs are called hedgehog pathway inhibitors because they target the hedgehog pathway, a signaling mechanism critical to healthy cell growth in the fetus. The pathway typically goes dormant by adulthood, but cancer cells may re-activate the hedgehog pathways in adults, promoting tumor growth in some cases. Because of the pathway’s importance to developing fetuses, these drugs should not be taken by women who are pregnant or who 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.