Although most skin cancers can be treated successfully with the techniques available today, current research may lead to the development of even more effective forms of therapy. Some of the focuses of current research include the following:
Improved Local Treatments for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers
Although the types of local treatment that are currently available work well for most non-melanoma skin cancers, skin cancers in some parts of the body are difficult to treat. Also, the treatment of skin cancer sometimes results in scarring or other side effects. Researchers are currently working to develop better forms of treatment that would cause less scarring and/or be suitable for use in difficult-to-reach areas. Some of the newest developments include imiquimod cream (a type of local chemotherapy), photodynamic therapy (discussed in the pages on treatment of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma), immune response modulators, and improved laser surgery techniques.
Cancer cells differ from normal cells in many ways. The concept of targeted therapy involves detecting the difference between cancer cells and normal cells by targeting the specific genes or proteins that are involved in the initiation or growth of cancer. Designing targeted therapies is a very complex process, but it is also considered one of the most promising new approaches to the treatment of cancer, including skin cancer.
Gene Therapy for Melanoma
One current area of research in melanoma treatment is gene therapy. This type of therapy involves adding specific genes to cancer cells to help fight the cancer. Clinical trials of gene therapy in human volunteers are now underway.
Immune Therapy for Melanoma
Another important area of research in melanoma treatment is immune therapy. One approach that is currently being investigated is the development of vaccines that would make patients immune to their own melanoma cells. Another approach involves training the patient's immune system to recognize melanoma cells as abnormal and therefore fight the cancer more effectively.