Introduction: Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a malignancy that is driven by an activated Hedgehog (Hh) pathway. Smoothened inhibitors are a new promising treatment option for patients with locally advanced or metastatic BCC or basal cell nevus syndrome. But long-term data are still limited, the optimal treatment duration is not yet defined and there are already documented cases with acquired resistance.
Areas covered: Treatment modalities with Hh inhibitors, side effects and potential pharmacological combination options are discussed. The current literature, including PubMed, Cochrane database and registered trials on ClinicalTrials.gov, was searched.
Expert opinion: BCCs typically regress during therapy with Hh inhibitors. Muscle toxicity, dysgeusia and hair loss can be considered as on target adverse reactions. Muscle toxicity is the dose-limiting toxicity of sonidegib. It was not seen with vismodegib because of its high binding to plasma protein α-1-acid glycoprotein. Sonidegib is different and shows a clear dose-toxicity relationship, which allows to address the question of whether there is a dose dependency of regression rate, cure rate and progression-free survival. In addition, basic research has offered strategies to enhance efficacy by the combination with other molecules, such as EGFR inhibitors, MEK inhibitors or immunotherapy.
Keywords: Hedgehog inhibitors; adverse events; basal cell carcinoma; combination therapy; resistance; side effects; smoothened inhibitors; sonidegib; toxic myopathy.