Clinical trials help determine how effective new treatments are for diseases. Most clinical trials use hundreds or thousands of patients from multiple hospitals and compare two different types of treatments to identify which is best. However, smaller clinical trials are also common, especially for very new treatments. For skin cancers, the majority of large clinical trials have investigated systemic treatments for melanoma. There are a few smaller trials that have also investigated some of the systemic treatments discussed above for Merkel cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma.
Thanks to many of the trials done with melanoma patients, the safety and benefits of immunotherapy and targeted therapy treatments are well established. Now, trials are focusing on different timing and dosing to give these medicines in hopes of optimizing the benefits and limiting any side effects. Clinical trials for Merkel cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma in particular are still in the early phases of helping to define how helpful these medicines can be. The small number of studies for both of these diseases show many of these tumors that have metastasized will respond to treatment. Clinical trials are now focused on investigating if these are helpful if given before or after surgical treatments.
Clinical trials are an important way to improve patient care and identify better treatments. Because many skin cancers have shown excellent responses to immunotherapy and some targeted therapies, there are a growing number of strategies being developed to improve skin cancer treatment. Patients with advanced skin cancers may have opportunities to participate in some of these trials. Patients looking for clinical trials can visit the website https://clinicaltrials.gov/ where all trials active in the United States must be registered.
article by Kevin Emerick, MD