Laser-assisted topical delivery of vismodegib reduces hedgehog gene expression in human basal cell carcinomas in vivo

Uffe H. Olesen*, Kristian Kåber Pedersen, Katrine Togsverd-Bo, Edyta Biskup, Anni Linnet Nielsen, Malene Jackerott, Gael Clergeaud, Thomas L. Andresen, Merete Haedersdal

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Systemically delivered hedgehog inhibitors including vismodegib and sonidegib are widely used to treat basal cell carcinomas (BCCs). Ablative fractional laser (AFL)-assisted topical delivery of vismodegib has been demonstrated in preclinical studies. The aim of this explorative clinical study was to evaluate intratumoral vismodegib concentrations and effect on hedgehog pathway gene expression following AFL-assisted topical vismodegib delivery to BCCs. Methods: In an open-label clinical trial, 16 nodular BCCs (in n = 9 patients) received one application of CO2-AFL (40 mJ/microbeam, 10% density) followed by topical vismodegib emulsion. After 3–4 days, vismodegib concentrations in tumor biopsies (n = 15) and plasma were analyzed and compared with samples from patients receiving oral treatment (n = 3). GLI1, GLI2, PTCH1, and PTCH2 expression was determined by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (n = 7) and GLI1 additionally by in situ hybridization (n = 3). Results: Following AFL-assisted topical administration, vismodegib was detected in 14/15 BCCs and reached a median concentration of 6.2 µmol/L, which compared to concentrations in BCC tissue from patients receiving oral vismodegib (9.5 µmol/L, n = 3, p = 0.8588). Topical vismodegib reduced intratumoral GLI1 expression by 51%, GLI2 by 55%, PTCH1 and PTCH2 each by 73% (p ≤ 0.0304) regardless of vismodegib concentrations (p ≥ 0.3164). In situ hybridization demonstrated that GLI1 expression was restricted to tumor tissue and downregulated in response to vismodegib exposure. Conclusion: A single AFL-assisted topical application of vismodegib resulted in clinically relevant intratumoral drug concentrations and significant reductions in hedgehog pathway gene expressions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLasers in Surgery and Medicine
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)239-248
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Ablative fractional laser
  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Clinical trial
  • Emulsion drug formulation
  • Laser-assisted drug delivery
  • Vismodegib


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