Plant's sap effective for skin cancer

February 9, 2011

Researchers here claim the sap from a commonly found weed could help cure certain types of skin cancer, the U.K.’s online Daily Mail reports.

Brisbane, Australia - Researchers here claim the sap from a commonly found weed could help cure certain types of skin cancer, the U.K.’s online Daily Mail reports.

A team of scientists from several Brisbane medical institutions conducted a clinical study of sap from Euphorbia peplus, better known as milkweed or petty spurge, which for centuries has been used as a folk medicine to treat warts, asthma and several types of cancer, according to the Daily Mail.

The study involved 36 patients with a total of 48 non-melanoma lesions, including basal cell (BCC), squamous cell (SCC) and intraepidermal carcinomas (IEC). The patients had not responded to traditional treatments, including surgery, or had refused or were unsuitable for surgery due to their age.

Once a day for three consecutive days, an oncologist covered each patient’s lesions with E. peplus sap. After one month, 41 of the 48 cancers were gone. After an average of 15 months following treatment, two-thirds of the 48 skin cancer lesions were still showing a complete response.

The study, which appeared in the British Journal of Dermatology, notes that of the three types of skin cancer upon which the sap was tested, the final outcome was a 75 per cent complete response for IEC lesions, 57 per cent for BCC and 50 per cent for SCC. As for side effects, 43 per cent of the patients said they had no pain as a result of the treatment, 14 per cent reported moderate pain and one patient reported experiencing severe short-term pain.

The Daily Mail quotes Kimberley Carter, of the British Association of Dermatologists, as saying, “This is a very small test group so it will be interesting to see what larger studies and the development of the active ingredient in E. peplus sap will reveal. … Any advances that could lead to new therapies for patients where surgery is not an option are definitely worth investigating.

“It is also very important to note that this is definitely not a treatment people should be trying out at home,” the Daily Mail quotes her as saying. “Exposure of the sap to mucous-producing surfaces, such as the eyes, results in extreme inflammation and can lead to hospitalization. The concentration of the active ingredients in the sap also varies between different plants, with high doses able to cause very severe and excessive inflammatory responses.”