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Photodynamic therapy is more effective than imiquimod for actinic keratosis in organ transplant recipients: a randomized intraindividual controlled trial

Journal article
Authors K. Togsverd-Bo
Christina Halldin
Carin Sandberg
Helena Gonzalez
Ann-Marie Wennberg
S. S. Sorensen
H. C. Wulf
M. Haedersdal
Published in British Journal of Dermatology
Volume 178
Issue 4
Pages 903-909
ISSN 0007-0963
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Dermatology and Venereology
Pages 903-909
Language en
Keywords placebo-controlled safety, 5-percent imiquimod, methyl aminolevulinate, double-blind, skin-lesions, cream, efficacy, prevention, disease, cancer, Dermatology
Subject categories Dermatology and Venereal Diseases


Background Actinic keratoses (AKs) in solid organ transplant recipients (OTRs) are difficult-to-treat premalignancies and comparison of topical therapies is therefore warranted. Objectives In an intraindividual study to compare the efficacy and safety of field treatment with methyl aminolaevulinate photodynamic therapy (MAL-PDT) and imiquimod (IMIQ) for AKs in OTRs. Methods OTRs (n = 35) with 572 AKs (grade I-III) in two similar areas on the face, scalp, dorsal hands or forearms were included. All patients received one MAL-PDT and one IMIQ session (three applications per week for 4 weeks) in each study area according to randomization. Treatments were repeated after 2 months (IMIQ) and 3 months (PDT) in skin with incomplete AK response. Outcome measures were complete lesion response (CR), skin reactions, laboratory results and treatment preference. Results The majority of study areas received two treatment sessions (PDT n = 25 patients; IMIQ n = 29 patients). At 3 months after two treatments, skin treated with PDT achieved a higher rate of CR (AK I-III median 78%; range 50-100) compared with IMIQ-treated skin areas (median 61%, range 33-100; P < 0.001). Fewer emergent AKs were seen in PDT-treated skin vs. IMIQ-treated skin (0.7 vs. 1.5 AKs, P = 0.04). Patients developed more intense inflammatory skin reactions following PDT, which resolved more rapidly compared with IMIQ (median 10 days vs. 18 days, P < 0.01). Patient preference (P = 0.47) and cosmesis (P > 0.30) were similar for PDT and IMIQ. Conclusions Compared with IMIQ, PDT treatment obtained a higher rate of AK clearance at 3-month follow-up and achieved shorter-lasting, but more intense, short-term skin reactions.

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