Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most prevalent cancer worldwide, increasing the cost of healthcare services and with a high rate of morbidity. Its etiology is linked to chronic ultraviolet (UV) exposure that leads to malignant transformation of keratinocytes. Invasive growth and metastasis are severe consequences of this process. Therapy-resistant and highly aggressive SCC is frequently fatal, exemplifying the need for novel treatment strategies. Cold physical plasma is a partially ionized gas, expelling therapeutic doses of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species that were investigated for their anticancer capacity against SCC in vitro and SCC-like lesions in vivo. Using the kINPen argon plasma jet, a selective growth-reducing action of plasma treatment was identified in two SCC cell lines in 2D and 3D cultures. In vivo, plasma treatment limited the progression of UVB-induced SSC-like skin lesions and dermal degeneration without compromising lesional or non-lesional skin. In lesional tissue, this was associated with a decrease in cell proliferation and the antioxidant transcription factor Nrf2 following plasma treatment, while catalase expression was increased. Analysis of skin adjacent to the lesions and determination of global antioxidant parameters confirmed the local but not systemic action of the plasma anticancer therapy in vivo.
Keywords: cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC); kINPen; plasma medicine; plasma sources; reactive oxygen and nitrogen species.