Regression of basal cell carcinoma by intralesional interferon-alpha treatment is mediated by CD95 (Apo-1/Fas)-CD95 ligand-induced suicide

J Clin Invest. 1997 Dec 1;100(11):2691-6. doi: 10.1172/JCI119814.


Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common skin cancer in humans, and although metastasis rarely occurs, the tumor cells are nevertheless able to invade and destroy the surrounding tissue. Intralesional injection of IFN-alpha has been found to be highly effective in inducing BCC regression by an unknown mechanism. We show that in untreated patients, BCC cells express CD95 ligand, but not the receptor, which may allow tumor expansion by averting the attack of activated CD95 receptor-positive lymphoid effector cells. The CD95 ligand of BCC cells is functional as CD95-positive cells incubated on BCC cryosections become apoptotic and are lysed. In IFN-alpha-treated patients BCC cells express not only CD95 ligand but also CD95 receptor, whereas the peritumoral infiltrate that mainly consists of CD4+ T cells predominantly contains CD95 receptor and only few CD95 ligand-positive cells. Thus, in treated patients BCC most likely regresses by committing suicide through apoptosis induction via CD95 receptor-CD95 ligand interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / therapy*
  • DNA Fragmentation
  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Injections
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use*
  • Lymphoid Tissue
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • fas Receptor / metabolism*


  • FASLG protein, human
  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • fas Receptor