JOURNAL ARTICLE

Photodynamic therapy and imiquimod immunotherapy for basal cell carcinomas

A F Nikkels, C Piérard-Franchimont, N Nikkels-Tassoudji, R Bourguignon, G E Piérard
Acta Clinica Belgica 2005, 60 (5): 227-34
16398319
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) and topical imiquimod immunotherapy (TII) are two recently introduced treatment modalities for certain types of basal cell carcinomas (BCC). We present a review of the relevant literature and report our own findings regarding the efficacy and tolerance of PDT and TII in the treatment of BCCs. According to published studies, the cure rates range from 75-95% for PDT and 42-100% for TII, depending on treatment modalities and BCC type. In our observations, 13 patients with nodular or superficial BCCs were treated by PDT using two courses of 3-hour topical application of methyl aminolevulinate, followed by 8 minutes illumination (lambda = 634 nm, e = 37J/cm2). Biopsies were taken before and one month after PDT. Side effects including pain and crusting were assessed. Eight patients with superficial BCC were treated by TII using 3 monthly courses each consisting of 3 weekly applications for 3 weeks followed by one week out of treatment. Biopsies were taken before and after 3 months of TII. Adverse reactions including erythema, oozing, ulceration, and crusting were recorded. Clinico-histological cure was obtained in 12/13 PDT cases as assessed after 1 month, and in 6/8 TII cases after 3 months. Minimal pain during illumination and crust formation were observed in 7/13 and 3/13 PDT cases, respectively. Variable erythema, oozing, ulceration, and crusting were observed in all TII-treated lesions. It is concluded that PDT represents an active and well tolerated alternative treatment for both nodular and superficial BCCs. TII also shows activity, although the tolerance may be poor and cure needs a longer time to be obtained. The final cosmetic appearance was fine following both PDT and TII procedures. Both PDT and TII may leave intact neoplastic aggregates inside the skin. They cannot be clinically perceived, leading to unexpected recurrences. It is stressed that the currently available efficacy information about PDT and TII deals with short term follow-up periods. A 5-year follow-up must be awaited before drawing firm conclusions.

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