The possibility of altering the pathophysiology, of keloid scars was investigated in 11 patients, using a single application of 5-fluorouracil solution for 5 minutes after extralesional excision was performed. Similar excisional wounds treated with phosphate-buffered saline for 5 minutes served as synchronous controls. An objective scoring system and subjective assessment were made to assay the change in the quality of the wound-healing and scar tissue produced by this treatment. A keloid scar score was used at regular time intervals after treatment to assess the quality of scar produced, thereby enabling the treated and control scars to be clinically compared. Biopsies were taken of the control and treated scars 1 month after treatment; the biopsy specimens were then subjected to immunohistochemical analysis as well as a functional assessment of cultured keloid fibroblasts. The immunohistochemical antigens assayed were Ki-67 (also called MIB-1; a marker of cell proliferation); vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (a marker of inflammation); transforming growth factor beta-1 (a factor involved in scarring) and CD-68 (a macrophage-specific marker). Fibroblast-populated collagen lattices provided a functional assessment of fibroblast contraction. All treated and control wounds healed without any dehiscence or infection. The keloid scar score revealed that there was a perceived improvement in condition for those treated with 5-fluorouracil, compared with the control specimens, during the 6-month follow-up period in the five patients who attended all their clinic appointments; data on later recurrence are not complete as yet. The wounds treated with 5-fluorouracil produced scars that had a significant (p<0.01) reduction in all the markers assayed, apart from CD-68. Functionally, the keloid fibroblasts from three of five of the treated patients showed reduced contractile capacity. This pilot study demonstrates that a "single-touch" technique with 5-fluorouracil can produce a change in the characteristics of the healing keloid wound after extralesional excision. Long-term studies are required to elucidate the correct dosage and time of exposure to improve the efficacy of this potential treatment.
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