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According to the results of a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Aldara (imiquimod 5% cream) effectively treats squamous cell carcinoma in situ of the skin.

More than one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S., making it the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer.

Skin cancer is often categorized as melanoma or non-melanoma. Non-melanoma skin cancer is more common than melanoma, but tends to be less aggressive. The two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma in situ (also known as Bowen’s disease) refers to squamous cell cancer that involves only the top layer of the skin.

Aldara has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of actinic keratoses (a precancerous change to the skin), as well as treatment of certain patients with small, superficial basal cell carcinoma.

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Aldara is a topical medication that is applied directly to the skin. It acts as an immune response modifier, meaning that it stimulates the immune system to help fight “foreign” material, such as bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells.

To evaluate the effectiveness of Aldara in treating squamous cell carcinoma in situ, researchers conducted a clinical trial among 31 patients. Half the patients were randomly assigned to treatment with Aldara and half the patients were assigned to treatment with a placebo cream. Treatment was given daily for 16 weeks.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma in situ disappeared completely in 73% of the patients treated with Aldara.
  • None of the patients in the placebo group experienced complete disappearance of squamous cell carcinoma in situ.

The researchers conclude Aldara effectively treats squamous cell carcinoma in situ of the skin. They note, however, that additional information about optimal dosing and cost-effectiveness is needed before Aldara can become a recognized treatment for this condition.

Reference: Patel GK, Goodwin R, Chawla M et al. Imiquimod 5% Cream Monotherapy for Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carinoma in Situ (Bowen’s Disease): A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2006;54:1025-32.