The Landmark Series: Non-melanoma Skin Cancers

Ann Surg Oncol. 2020 Jan;27(1):22-27. doi: 10.1245/s10434-019-07831-9. Epub 2019 Sep 23.


Surgery with or without radiation has always been the mainstay of treatment for patients with non-melanoma skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and Merkel cell carcinoma. Until recently, there were no effective systemic therapies for patients with advanced disease. This review will focus on the landmark clinical trials that led to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of Vismodegib for advanced basal cell carcinoma (ERIVANCE BCC) and pembrolizumab for advanced Merkel cell carcinoma (KEYNOTE-017). These trials have not only changed the landscape for patients with metastatic disease but also notably for patients with locally advanced disease that is either unresectable or resectable with high morbidity. Additional mention is made for the clinical trial that led to FDA approval of cemiplimab for advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (EMPOWER-CSCC-1), which is already changing practice patterns, but for which longer-term data are still needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Drug Approval
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents