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Dermatology Online Journal

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A case of a patient with stage III familial hidradenitis suppurativa treated with 3 courses of infliximab and died of metastatic squamous cell carcinoma.


Although rare, severe hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) of the anal, perianal, gluteal, thigh, and groin regions can evolve into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). This usually does not occur until the HS has been present for more than 20 years. Malignant degeneration of HS in the axilla has not been reported. SCC has developed in dissecting cellulitis, acne conglobata, and pilonidal cysts (other members of the follicular tetrad). Whereas the male to female ratio of HS is 1:3, SCC in HS has a male to female ration of 5:1. The reasons behind malignant degeneration in HS are complex and might differ from the malignant degeneration causing Marjolin ulcers. It likely involves the presence of human papilloma virus (HPV) in affected areas (a rarity in the axilla), and impaired defensins, which combat HPV, in the skin of Hurley Stage III HS. In familial HS, the odds of developing SCC are likely greater because of independent loss-of-function mutations in the γ-secretase multiprotein complex, which regulates the Notch signaling pathway. Compromise of the Notch signaling pathway can undermine immune function and increase the risk of neoplastic development. Coincident SCC with use of tumor necrosis factor α blockers has been reported. I report a patient with long standing Hurley Stage III, familial HS, wwho developed metastatic SCC after 3 courses of infliximab and expired 11 months after the infliximab was started.A 47-year-old male presented with progressive HS since early adulthood. His stage III hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) involved his groin, legs buttocks, and perineal areas. Interestingly, his HS was familial; one daughter also suffered from HS. A pilonidal cyst had been excised in the past. He suffered from hypertension for which he took ramipril, 2.5 mg per day. He did not admit to smoking. He had undergone numerous surgeries and courses of clindamycin with rifampin and clindamycin with minocycline. He used pregablin among other stronger medications for pain control. He had also taken isotretinoin years before without substantial long-term benefit. The various treatments were palliative but the HS always returned. He expressed that the pain from his HS was not bearable. He decided in consultations with his doctors to try infliximab owing to the positive clinical data for its efficacy in HS. He took 3 courses of infliximab 500mg, each of which was followed by surgical debridement of the perineal and anal areas. At the 3rd surgical debridement his physician noted the presence of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) on July 28, 2008. The infliximab was stopped. However, the patient developed the patient underwent scanning soon after that showed soon after that the SCC had metastasized. He expired in June of 2009.

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