A trial looking at photodynamic therapy and surgery for basal cell skin cancer

Cancer type:

Basal cell skin cancer
Non melanoma skin cancer
Skin cancer




Phase 4

This trial compared photodynamic therapy (PDT) with surgery for basal cell skin cancer.

Basal cell skin cancer (BCC) is a type of non melanoma skin cancer. Doctors often remove BCC with surgery. This usually works very well, but can leave a scar depending on the size of the BCC removed.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is treatment using light. Doctors can treat the area of BCC, without affecting the healthy skin around it.

The aims of this trial were to find out

  • How well PDT works for superficial basal cell skin cancer
  • More about the side effects

Summary of results

The trial team found that photodynamic therapy (PDT) was useful for removing basal cell skin cancer and caused less scaring than surgery. But a year after treatment, they found the cancer had come back (recurred) in some people who had PDT.

196 people took part in this trial

  • Half had photodynamic therapy
  • Half had surgery

The researchers checked the area of skin where the BCC had been removed a year after treatment had finished. They were very pleased with how the skin looked in over 9 out of 10 people (94%) treated with PDT. This compared with 6 out of 10 people (60%) treated with surgery.

They also found that just under 1 in 10 basal cell cancers (9.3%) had come back in people who had PDT. The areas of cancer had not come back in anybody who had surgery.

The main side effect of PDT was a skin reaction to the light treatment. A very small number of people who had surgery had a mild wound infection.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Sally Ibbotson

Supported by

Galderma Research and Development

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Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 585

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Around 1 in 5 people take part in clinical trials

3 phases of trials

Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.

Last reviewed:

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