Skin cancer can also be treated using anti-inflammatory ointment

New non-invasive treatment of basal cell carcinomas

Certain types of basal cell carcinoma can be treated using anti-inflammatory ointment instead of surgical intervention. Extensive analysis of the entire DNA of basal cell carcinomas by researchers at Maastricht UMC+ has shown that in addition to the known genetic changes, so-called epigenetic changes play a major part in the development of skin cancer. These epigenetic changes activate an inflammatory reaction in the tumour cells. Using anti-inflammatory ointment to halt this mechanism provides good treatment results. Tjinta Brinkhuizen, specialist registrar in dermatology at Maastricht UMC+, presented her doctoral thesis on 24 June 2016 concerning research into epigenetic changes and new treatments for basal cell carcinomas.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. One in every five Dutch people will be affected by it in their lifetimes. Because operating on the proliferation of the skin cells remains the most effective form of treatment, most basal cell carcinomas are still surgically removed.

Non-surgical treatment
Non-surgical treatment of basal cell carcinomas with ointment has a number of advantages. It achieves better cosmetic results and there is a higher degree of patient satisfaction. The treatment is also less expensive and takes up less time. Unravelling the mechanism that brings about the tumour points the way to developing new, non-surgical but targeted forms of treatment. Targeted treatments are the future for cancer therapy as they focus on specific properties of the cancer cells. This means healthy cells suffer less damage.

In her research, Dr Brinkhuizen examined epigenetic changes (genetic transfers that are not linked to the DNA sequencing) in basal cell carcinomas. She found that epigenetic changes in basal cell carcinomas result in inflammation that in turn promotes the proliferation of cancer cells. By suppressing the inflammation with a cheap, widely available anti-inflammatory gel (Diclofenac), basal cell carcinomas can be successfully treated. ‘From the results of our research we can conclude that treatment using Diclofenac gel provided good results and clearly caused less damage to the skin’, stated Dr Brinkhuizen. ‘This research has taken the first step on a path to new, non-invasive targeted treatment of basal cell carcinomas.’      

Tjinta Brinkhuizen presented her doctoral thesis entitled ‘Basal Cell Carcinoma; epigenetics and new treatment modalities. Out of the Box’ at Maastricht University on Friday, 24 June 2016.

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