Sonic Hedgehog Pathway Inhibition in the Treatment of Advanced Basal Cell Carcinoma

  • Erica Leavitt
  • Gary Lask
  • Stephanie MartinEmail author
Skin Cancer (T Ito, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Skin Cancer

Opinion statement

Advanced basal cell carcinoma (BCC) represents a small proportion of BCCs that are not amenable to standard therapies due to lack of efficacy, high recurrence risk, and excessive morbidity. Implication of the Sonic hedgehog (Shh) pathway in the development of BCC has led to the development of systemic Shh pathway inhibitors, providing patients with advanced BCCs new treatment options and improved survival. There are currently two Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved Shh inhibitors, vismodegib and sonidegib, for advanced basal cell carcinomas. Vismodegib has approval for locally advanced BCCs (laBCC) and metastatic BCC (mBCC), while sonidegib has approval for laBCC. These agents have also been used for prevention in nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome and as neoadjuvant therapy before surgery, and we feel that there is a growing role of Shh inhibitors in these settings. Head-to-head randomized controlled trials comparing vismodegib to sonidegib are lacking. Adverse events can limit the utility of these medications by leading to treatment discontinuation in a large proportion of patients, and it is thus essential that prescribers be able to anticipate and manage the most frequent side effects of muscle spasms, alopecia, dysgeusia, nausea, and weight loss. Other Shh inhibitors, including the antifungal itraconazole, have been investigated in small trials, but further research is needed before recommending their routine clinical use. Additionally, there are several new agents under investigation that may have improved efficacy for resistant tumors by utilizing different mechanisms of action than the two currently approved medications.


Sonic hedgehog Vismodegib Sonidegib Advanced basal cell carcinoma Metastatic basal cell carcinoma Smoothened inhibitors 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of DermatologyUCLALos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.ILR DermatologyEncinoUSA
  3. 3.Department of DermatologyGreater Los Angeles VALos AngelesUSA

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