Porcine Xenografts for Skin Cancer Surgery

Skin grafts are widely used when undergoing Mohs surgery for skin cancer treatment. A skin graft is a healthy skin piece that is removed from one part of the body to cover another part of the body that has a larger wound and does not have its own blood supply.1 Nutrients that diffuse from the would site to the graft keep the graft intact and functioning. However, studies have shown that using grafts from other species is effective and may even be a safer alternative. These grafts are known as porcine xenografts for skin cancer.1

What are xenografts?

Xenografts are skin tissues used from one species on another species to enhance wound healing. These tissues are thoroughly cleaned and sterilized before being used. The most common xenografts are porcine (pig) and bovine (cow). This sterilization is accomplished through antibiotics, antiseptics, and radiation.1 Xenografts are typically used for healing a variety of wounds, burns, trauma, ulcers, and dermatologic surgery reconstruction.

Why are xenografts used instead of traditional skin grafts?

Xenografts have shown superior to traditional repairs for exposed bone, tendon or cartilage, and significant wound depth. These types of grafts stimulate dermal regeneration, extended shelf life, and are much more affordable.1 Many dermatologic surgeons find these types of grafts appealing since it reduces the chance of binding down, preserves mobility, and closely resembles human skin in thickness.1

Porcine xenografts for skin cancer

According to one study that used porcine xenografts to repair a wound for a patient with squamous cell carcinoma, the graft allowed for more rapid, safe, and effective healing.2 The patient had fewer complications such as reduced scarring and decreased risk of infection. However, a study with a larger cohort must be done in order to compare two groups; those with porcine xenografts vs traditional skin grafts.

One study of a 220 cohort was evaluated after the use of porcine skin graft placements where 89% of these patients had non-melanoma.3 The conclusion of this study showed the safety and efficacy of using porcine skin grafts after Mohs surgery or excision. Certain types of porcine xenografts have been successfully used for Mohs surgery such as Mediskin and Matristem.3

Current clinical trials

A clinical trial is currently being conducted to compare porcine xenografts to secondary healing upon dermatologic surgeries such as Mohs surgeries and excisions.4 Secondary healing is defined as a wound that is left open for natural healing processes to occur. The study hopes to note differences in scar appearance, healing-time, pain levels, and other postoperative complications. We are hopeful that this study can solidify whether porcine xenografts, in fact, have a better outcome than secondary healing by 2021.

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