Alternative Skin Cancer Treatments

Though surgery is the gold standard for skin cancer treatments, alternative skin cancer treatment methods are being developed. These treatments may be appropriate for lesions that are not responsive to traditional skin cancer treatment. Alternative treatments include those that treat the cancer itself, as well as palliative treatment that can help alleviate symptoms of the disease.

Biological Treatments (Immunotherapy)

Biological treatments, also known as immunotherapy or biotherapy, form a new class of treatments for skin cancer. These treatments harness the body’s immune system response to fight off cancer cell growth. Immunotherapy can be successful for cancers that do not respond well to other treatments, such as metastatic melanoma. However, it can also be used in less severe, more localized cases. For example, the topical drug imiquimod also utilizes the body’s immune response, and can be applied at home to attack superficial basal cell carcinoma skin lesions and precancerous actinic keratoses.

Photodynamic Therapy

Another skin cancer treatment currently undergoing further research and development is photodynamic therapy. This method uses a chemical to increase the photosensitivity (sensitivity to light) of the skin cancer lesion. The skin is then exposed to specific wavelengths of light, which kill the cancer cells. Photodynamic therapy is appropriate for localized lesions.

Current Skin Cancer Treatment Research

Current skin cancer treatment research has several goals. One of these is the creation of a skin cancer vaccine. Clinical trials are underway to develop vaccines for both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Some vaccines target papillomavirus, an infection that can cause normal cells to turn abnormal. Another vaccine targets the gp100 molecule, found in melanoma cells. In clinical trials, this vaccine has been shown to reduce tumor size and halt the progression of melanoma, particularly when used in conjunction with immunotherapy.

Other research is focused on gene therapy for skin cancer treatment. Damaged genes are partially responsible for the proliferation of skin cancer cells. Modification of cancer cell genes can block the cells’ replication process, or allow the body’s immune response to fight off the cancer more effectively.

Palliative Treatments

Other types of treatment will not cure your cancer, but may relieve some of the symptoms or complications of the disease. For example, massage or relaxation therapy may help with anxiety. Exercise and yoga may help with trouble sleeping.

You should always speak to your doctor before beginning any alternative or complementary therapies. This will help ensure they do not conflict with other treatments and are safe based on your current symptoms and health status.

Alternative Cancer Treatment: Herbal and Natural Remedies

Many herbal and natural remedies are available that advertise relief from various types of skin cancer. These include herbal and plant-based treatments, and can come in topical formats, as well as those taken orally. However, these treatments are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and may not have been subject to adequate clinical testing. In addition, adverse drug interactions can occur. Speak to your doctor before using any natural remedies for alternative cancer treatment, or if you have any questions about these remedies.

Resources

American Academy of Dermatology. (2010). Treating nonmelanoma skin cancer. Retrieved July 14, 2010, from http://www.skincarephysicians.com/skincancernet/treating_nonmelanoma.html

American Cancer Society. (2010). What’s new in research and treatment of melanoma? Retrieved July 14, 2010, from http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/SkinCancer-Melanoma/DetailedGuide/melanoma-skin-cancer-new-research

Berkrot, B. (2009). Vaccine shows promise in advanced melanoma study. Retrieved July 14, 2010, from http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2934064820090530

Malkin, B. (2008). Vaccine for skin cancer ‘available in five years.’ Retrieved July 14, 2010, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/3472260/Vaccine-for-skin-cancer-available-in-five-years.html

Rosenberg, S. (2010). Effective immunotherapy for patients with metastatic melanoma. Retrieved July 14, 2010, http://www.skincancer.org/effective-immunotherapy-for-patients-with-metastatic-melanoma.html