Local Chemotherapy as an Adjuvant Treatment in Unresectable Squamous Cell Carcinoma: What Do We Know So Far?

Curr Oncol. 2021 Jun 23;28(4):2317-2325. doi: 10.3390/curroncol28040213.


Background: Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is one of the most common cancers involving skin and oral mucosa. Although this condition's gold-standard treatment is the surgical removal of the lesions, the physician must propose alternative treatments in some cases due to the patient's ineligibility for surgery. Among the available alternative therapies, local chemotherapy may represent an initial treatment in combination with radiotherapy or systemic chemotherapy due to the low frequency of side-effects and the lack of necessity for expensive devices. Methods: In this paper, we review all available literature in various databases (PubMed, Scopus-Embase, Web of Science), proposing local chemotherapy as a treatment for cutaneous and oral SCC. Exclusion criteria included ocular lesions (where topical treatments are common), non-English language, and non-human studies. Results: We included 14 studies in this review. The majority were case reports and case series describing the treatment of non-resectable localized SCC with either imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil. We also analyzed small studies proposing combination treatments. Almost all studies reported an excellent clinical outcome, with a low risk of relapses in time. Conclusions: Resection of the lesion remains the gold-standard treatment for SCC. When this approach is not feasible, local chemotherapy may represent a treatment alternative, and it may also be associated with radiotherapy or systemic chemotherapy.

Keywords: 5-fluorouracil; imiquimod; squamous cell carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / drug therapy
  • Fluorouracil
  • Humans
  • Imiquimod
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Skin Neoplasms* / drug therapy


  • Imiquimod
  • Fluorouracil