Innovative squamous cell carcinoma study presented at AACR annual meeting

May 2, 2024
Closeup photo of a needle being injected into a syringe with blue background.

Researchers from the University of Arizona and Texas Oncology found that a cancer drug used for melanoma called talimogene laherparepvec (TVEC) is effective for patients with cutaneous invasive squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC). 

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer with more than 1 million cases estimated to be diagnosed every year.

Clara N. Curiel-Lewandrowski, MD, presented their work at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting, April 5–10, in San Diego in a plenary session titled “Beyond Immune Checkpoint: Novel Immunotherapy Strategies.” 

Dr. Curiel poses for a headshot wearing a green buttondown shirt.

Clara Curiel-Lewandrowski, MD

Dr. Curiel-Lewandrowski is the Cancer Center interim director of research, a professor of medicine in dermatology at the University of Arizona, co-director of the UArizona Skin Cancer Institute, chief of the Division of Dermatology in the Department of Medicine. 

In the study, TVEC was injected directly into the patients’ cancer lesions. Patients with low- or intermediate-risk cSCC showed a rapid and robust positive response with all tumors achieving a complete resolution as reported by the AACR meeting news. The researchers found that the side effects of TVEC were mild and mostly related to the site of the injection.  

“The challenging landscape of cSCC is highlighted by three main components: … the increased incidence of cSCC that we are observing across multiple populations, the multiplicity of primary tumors within a single individual, and the decreased survival associated with these diagnoses which by recent reports is surpassing the melanoma mortality rates in certain regions,” Dr. Curiel-Lewandrowski said. 

They also found that TVEC may decrease the rate of new primary cSCC tumors and may also have a therapeutic effect in other primary cSCC located in close proximity to the treated tumor. The team recommended that further studies evaluating the role of intralesional immunotherapy should be considered in patients with an increased burden of cSCC.  

View earlier work on their study at the Journal of Clinical Oncology