Radioactive cream used to treat skin cancers

February 15, 2012

Researchers say a new skin cancer treatment that uses radiation to kill benign tumors with a single application of cream could be a viable alternative to surgery.

Grenoble, France - Researchers say a new skin cancer treatment that uses radiation to kill benign tumors with a single application of cream could be a viable alternative to surgery.

The topical therapy for basal cell carcinoma uses rhenium-188, a radioactive isotope, to kill tumor cells in half an hour while leaving the skin around it unharmed, the Telegraph reports. A base layer applied directly onto the skin protects healthy cells from the radioactive element, which sits on top of the base where it can irradiate the skin below.

Although the product has not yet been approved for use, a study of 1,000 patients in Rome found that it completely removed tumors in 95 percent of patients with just one treatment. The Telegraph reports that the vast majority of participants suffered no adverse effects.

Larger trials have been set up in Germany with the intention of bringing the therapy to the market.

The Telegraph quotes Ulli Koester, Ph.D., a researcher at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, where the radioactive material is produced, as saying, “Typically this disease is treated by surgery, and since it doesn’t metastase this is usually OK. But the problem is if the tumor is on the face, on the nose, ear or somewhere, it is strongly disfiguring - someone can have a big scar or lose half of his face. This is a localized radiation therapy which in more than 95 percent of cases a single treatment is sufficient to make the cancer go away.”

The Telegraph also quotes Martin Ledwick, of Cancer Research UK, as saying, “I would imagine we are not talking about a major breakthrough but another option. It is nice to have a menu of different options for people, particularly with things that can have a cosmetic impact.”

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