London: A radioactive
"paste" could cure skin cancer in just two hours, say researchers.
It can destroy tumours caused by skin cancers without surgery or
The treatment, however, is not suitable for malignant melanoma,
the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Experts say there are minimal side effects and the treatment does
not even leave a scar, the Daily Mail reported Friday.
The breakthrough therapy, which has been used on 700 patients in
Italy with a success rate of up to 95 percent, could be available
in Britain within two years.
The new technique can treat basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell
carcinoma. These cancers affect 100,000 people in Britain every
year, the newspaper said.
The vast majority of those who suffer the less dangerous forms
have surgery to remove the affected tissue.
Other treatments include radiotherapy and "freezing" of the
tumours if they are small and superficial.
But an estimated three percent of patients have deep tumours that
are difficult to remove surgically because they are on sensitive
areas such as the eyes, nose or ears. Others cannot have surgery
due to age or medical conditions.
These patients are given radiotherapy that often results in
For the new technique, Italian researchers harnessed rhenium-188,
a radioactive isotope that was previously rare and expensive.
But now it is being supplied in quantities large enough to treat
thousands of patients a week by nuclear physicists at the
British-funded Institut Laue-Langevin in France.
The treatment, which is said to be painless, involves putting a
piece of surgical foil on the tumour area, painting on the
radioactive paste and removing it one or two hours later.
Researchers believe that the radiation causes healthy skin to
re-grow, so there is no scarring.
In the Italian trial, 85 percent of patients were cured after one
treatment and up to 95 percent after three treatments.
Oliver Buck, chief executive of the German technology firm ITM
which developed the therapy, said: "This means that patients with
large and difficult-to-treat tumours not only have hope but keep
their quality of life under what would otherwise be dire
Trials are now being held in Germany and Australia, and Buck
believes the treatment could be licensed in Britain within two