SAN DIEGO – After , and colleagues published results of a reporting that one treatment with the long-pulsed 1,064-nm Nd:YAG laser cleared nonaggressive basal cell carcinoma (BCC) on the trunk and extremities in 90% of patients, she heard from colleagues who were skeptical of the approach.
Maybe it’s just the biopsy alone that’s clearing these tumors, some told her. Others postulated that since the energy was delivered with a 5- to 6-mm spot size at a fluence of 125-140 J/cm2 and a 7- to 10-ms pulse duration, bulk heating likely disrupted the tumors. However, treatments were generally well tolerated, required no anesthesia, and caused no significant adverse events.
“It’s almost scarless,” Dr. Ortiz, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at the University of California, San Diego, said at the annual Masters of Aesthetics Symposium. “Sometimes the treatment does leave a mark, but I think the scars are always acceptable. We do have good histologic evidence that we can penetrate 2.15 mm, which is a lot deeper than what the pulsed-dye laser or other superficial wavelengths are able to penetrate.”
Data is well powered to reject the null hypothesis that laser treatment does not have an effect on nodular and superficial BCC lesions, she continued, noting that it is at least comparable if not superior with clearance rates reported for methyl aminolevulinate–PDT (73%), imiquimod cream (83%), and fluorouracil cream (80%). “Maybe we’re not specifically targeting the vasculature [with this approach], but we did some optical coherence tomography imaging and saw that the blood vessels in the tumor were coagulated while the vasculature in the surrounding normal skin were spared,” said Dr. Ortiz, who is also vice president of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.
In a more, she and her colleagues retrospectively analyzed long-term outcomes in 11 patients with BCC who had 16 lesions treated with the 1,064-nm Nd:YAG laser. At a mean of 9 months, 100% of lesions remained clear as determined by clinical observation.
In a subsequent, as yet unpublished study, she and her collaborators followed 34 patients with BCC one year following laser treatment. “Of these, 33 had no recurrence at 1-year follow-up,” Dr. Ortiz said, noting that the one patient with a recurrence was on a biologic agent for Crohn’s disease.
One key advantage of using the long-pulsed 1,064-nm Nd:YAG laser for nonaggressive BCC is the potential for one treatment visit. “They don’t have to come back for suture removal,” she said. “It’s a quick procedure, takes only about 5 minutes. There’s no limitation on activity and there’s minimal wound care, light ointment, and a band-aid; that’s it.”
In addition, she said, there is a lower risk of complications, infections, and bleeding, and there is minimal scarring. It is “also an alternative for treating patients with multiple tumors or those who are poor surgical candidates, such as the elderly and those with Gorlin syndrome.”
Dr. Ortiz avoids treating aggressive subtypes “because we don’t know what margin to treat,” she added. “Avoid the face. I do make some exceptions for patients if they’re elderly or if they’ve had multiple tumors. Monitor for recurrence like you would using any other modality.”
She uses lidocaine without epinephrine to avoid vasoconstriction and treats with the 1,064-nm Nd:YAG laser as follows: a 5-mm spot size, a fluence of 140 J/cm2, and a pulse duration of 8 ms, with no cooling, which are the settings for the Excel V Laser System, she noted. “If you’re using a different Nd:YAG laser, your pulse duration may vary. I do let the device cool in between pulses to avoid bulk heating.”
The immediate endpoint to strive for is slight greying and slight contraction, and the procedure is covered by insurance, billed as malignant destruction/EDC (CPT codes 17260-17266 trunk and 17280-17283 face). “I do biopsy prior to treatment,” she said. “I like the biopsy to be healed when I’m using the laser, so I’ll treat them about a month later.”
As for future directions, Dr. Ortiz and colleagues plan to evaluate the use of gold nanoparticles to more selectively target BCC during treatment with the 1,064-nm Nd:YAG laser. For now, she sees no downside of the procedure for proper candidates. “I do think that patients really like it,” she said. “It’s effective and easy.”
Dr. Ortiz disclosed having financial relationships with several pharmaceutical and device companies. She is also cochair of the MOAS.