Skin Cancer (Non-Melanoma): Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done to learn more about non-melanoma skin cancer and how to treat it. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors are working to learn more about keratinocyte carcinoma and Merkel cell cancer, ways to prevent them, how to best treat them, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with these diseases. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the best diagnostic and treatment options for you.

  • EGFR inhibitors for advanced or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma. A tumor protein known as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) causes many squamous cell carcinomas to grow out of control. Several clinical trials are investigating whether combining radiation therapy with drugs that target EGFR can help treat advanced or metastatic disease.

  • Additional hedgehog pathway inhibitors for advanced basal cell carcinoma. Researchers are developing new hedgehog pathway inhibitors to treat advanced basal cell carcinoma that cannot be treated with surgery or radiation therapy.

  • Combining hedgehog pathway inhibitors with other therapies. Researchers are testing whether combining hedgehog inhibitors with other treatments, such as surgery and radiation therapy, would be helpful in treating basal cell carcinomas that are difficult to cure.

  • Immunotherapy. As outlined in Types of Treatment, immunotherapy medications are actively being studied for certain non-melanoma skin cancers, including Merkel cell cancer. These medications are usually given through a vein, and their effects can last a long time.

  • Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV). As described in Risk Factors and Prevention, MCV is present in most but not all Merkel cell cancer tumors. Researchers continue to investigate the link between this common virus and this uncommon type of tumor, including whether the presence or absence of the virus in a tumor could result in different treatment approaches.

  • Palliative care/supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current skin cancer treatments to improve comfort and quality of life for patients.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like more information about the latest areas of research in non-melanoma skin cancer, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance on how to cope with the physical, emotional, social, and financial changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.