Photodynamic therapy vs. cryosurgery of basal cell carcinomas: results of a phase III clinical trial

Br J Dermatol. 2001 Apr;144(4):832-40. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.2001.04141.x.


Background: A previously reported randomized clinical trial showed treatment of Bowen's disease using photodynamic therapy (PDT) with topically applied delta-aminolaevulinic acid (ALA) to be at least as effective as cryosurgery and to be associated with fewer adverse effects.

Objectives: To compare ALA-PDT and cryotherapy in the treatment of histopathologically verified basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) in a non-blinded, prospective phase III clinical trial.

Methods: One lesion from each of 88 patients was included. The BCCs were divided into superficial and nodular lesions. The follow-up period was restricted to 1 year with close follow-up for the first 3 months. Efficacy was assessed as the recurrence rate 12 months after the first treatment session, verified by histopathology. Tolerability was evaluated as the time of healing, pain and discomfort during and after the treatment, and final cosmetic outcome.

Results: Histopathologically verified recurrence rates in the two groups were statistically comparable and were 25% (11 of 44) for ALA-PDT and 15% (six of 39) for cryosurgery. However, clinical recurrence rates were only 5% (two of 44) for PDT and 13% (five of 39) for cryosurgery. Additional treatments, usually one, had to be performed in 30% of the lesions in the PDT group. The healing time was considerably shorter and the cosmetic outcome significantly better with PDT. Pain and discomfort during the treatment session and in the following week were low, and were equivalent with the two treatment modalities.

Conclusions: In terms of efficacy, ALA-PDT is comparable with cryosurgery as a treatment modality for BCCs. Retreatments are more often required with PDT than with cryosurgery. This can easily be performed due to the shorter healing time, less scarring and better cosmetic outcome that follows ALA-PDT.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / surgery*
  • Cryosurgery* / adverse effects
  • Esthetics
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Photochemotherapy* / adverse effects
  • Photochemotherapy* / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wound Healing