Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is the second most common skin cancer in the US. We don’t think of common skin cancers as being lethal but approximately the same number of people die per year from metastatic squamous cell cancer of the skin as die from melanoma.

Unfortunately, there is not a standardized treatment protocol nor a way to predict which cancers will become more aggressive. New biomarkers have been developed which share 6 genes in all squamous cell cancers of the skin and 18 genes which appear to be able to identify the cancers which can become recurrent from non-recurrent cancers.

This is very important from a treatment standpoint. Up until now oncologists could not tell which cancers had potential to become lethal and so all squamous cell carcinomas of the skin where basically treated the same. Being able to identify these more harmful cancers has the potential to save lives by individualizing a screening and treatment protocol to best enable doctors to ensure the best outcome for each patient.

Along the same lines, the New England Journal of Medicine published research on new immunotherapy for squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. PD-1 Antibody therapy appears to be active in skin cancers with a 48% response rate.

Michelle Haessler M.D.

Board Certified Radiation Oncologist