An investigator-initiated open-label clinical trial of vismodegib as a neoadjuvant to surgery for high-risk basal cell carcinoma


      Vismodegib is an oral hedgehog-pathway inhibitor approved for advanced basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Although most BCCs are amenable to surgery, excision of large tumors in aesthetically sensitive sites may compromise function or cosmesis.


      We sought to evaluate the reduction in BCC surgical defect area after 3 to 6 months of neoadjuvant vismodegib.


      This was an open-label, single-arm intervention trial with a primary outcome of change in target-tumor surgical defect area pre- and post-vismodegib (150 mg/d). Secondary outcomes were change in tumor area and tolerability.


      Eleven of 15 enrolled patients, aged 39 to 100 years, completed the trial. Thirteen target tumors were excised after a mean of 4 ± 2 months of vismodegib. In all, 29% (4 of 14 patients) could not complete more than 3 months because of vismodegib-related side effects. The mean baseline target-tumor diameter was 3.2 cm, and 10 of 13 tumors occurred on the face. Overall, vismodegib reduced the surgical defect area by 27% (95% confidence interval –45.7% to –7.9%; P = .006) from baseline. Vismodegib was not effective in patients who received less than 3 months. Over a mean follow-up of 11.5 (range 4-21) months for all tumors, only 1 tumor recurred at 17 months post-Mohs micrographic surgery.


      Short follow-up time and no placebo control are limitations.


      Neoadjuvant vismodegib appears to reduce surgical defect area when taken for 3 months or longer for nonrecurrent BCCs in functionally sensitive locations. Further studies with larger sample sizes and long-term follow-up are warranted.

      Key words

      Abbreviations used:

      BCC (basal cell carcinoma), BCNS (basal cell nevus syndrome), CI (confidence interval), NCCN (National Comprehensive Cancer Network)
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