Journal Article
Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
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Effects of Combined Treatment With Arsenic Trioxide and Itraconazole in Patients With Refractory Metastatic Basal Cell Carcinoma.

JAMA Dermatology 2016 April
IMPORTANCE: Tumor resistance is an emerging problem for Smoothened (SMO) inhibitor-treated metastatic basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Arsenic trioxide and itraconazole antagonize the hedgehog (HH) pathway at sites distinct from those treated by SMO inhibitors.

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether administration of intravenous arsenic trioxide and oral itraconazole in patients with metastatic BCC is associated with a reduction in GLI1 messenger RNA expression in tumor and/or normal skin biopsy samples.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Five men with metastatic BCC who experienced relapse after SMO inhibitor treatment underwent intravenous arsenic trioxide treatment for 5 days, every 28 days, and oral itraconazole treatment on days 6 to 28. Data were collected from April 10 to November 14, 2013. Follow-up was completed on October 3, 2015, and data were analyzed from June 5 to October 6, 2015.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The primary outcome was the change in messenger RNA levels of the GLI family zinc finger 1 (GLI1) gene (HH-pathway target gene) in biopsy specimens of normal skin or BCC before and after treatment. Secondary objectives were evaluation of tumor response and tolerability.

RESULTS: Of the 5 patients (mean [SD] age, 52 [9] years; age range, 43-62 years), 3 completed 3 cycles of treatment and 2 discontinued treatment early owing to disease progression or adverse events. Adverse effects included grade 2 transaminitis and grade 4 leukopenia with a grade 3 infection. Overall, arsenic trioxide and itraconazole reduced GLI1 messenger RNA levels by 75% from baseline (P < .001). The best overall response after 3 treatment cycles was stable disease in 3 patients.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Targeting the HH pathway with sequential arsenic trioxide and itraconazole treatment is a feasible treatment for metastatic BCC. Although some patients experienced stable disease for 3 months, none had tumor shrinkage, which may be owing to transient GLI1 suppression with sequential dosing. Continuous dosing may be required to fully inhibit the HH pathway and achieve clinical response.

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