It seems incredible but this is the claim, made by Italian scientists who have been working on a new type of ‘paint’ that is radioactive and can apparently cure skin cancer tumours in two hours.
The paint, which is a non surgical way of treating skin cancer, was tested on non-melanoma skin cancer sufferers only and it was found that, of the patients who took part in the trial, 85% were cured after just one treatment and 95% were cured after three treatments. If the treatment proves to be successful, it could save up to 3,000 lives a year.
Of the 700 patients that were tested with this new paint who had either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, (the less aggressive forms of skin cancer), the success rate was an astonishing 95%.
However, this new way of treating skin tumours is not suitable for those with advanced skin cancer, known as malignant melanoma. The paint would also not be able to cure patients suffering from harder to reach tumours that sat further down within the skin, or tumours that were within the eyes, nose or ears. The way the treatment works is that it uses harnessed rhenium-188, which is a radioactive isotope.
The patient has to have a piece of surgical foil placed on where the tumour area is, then radioactive paste ‘paint’ is applied to that area. It is claimed that some tumours disappear within one to two hours. Oliver Buck, who is the chief executive from Isotopen Technologien Munchen (ITM) who developed the treatment, says, “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 conditions. The radiation does not affect surrounding tissue and also seems to activate the body’s healing mechanisms.”
Trials are already being held in Germany and Australia, and word is that the treatment will be available in the UK within two years. So how do the UK skin experts feel about the new treatment of using radioactive paint to cure skin tumours?
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Kim Hardwick, who is the senior cancer information nurse specialist from Macmillan Cancer Support, said, “Although current UK treatments for basal cell skin cancers are usually curative – it’s always good to hear of new effective treatments for skin cancer on the horizon – offering more options for patients.
If this treatment proves to be effective in further trials, it may offer another option for people with larger tumours or those where surgery is not possible.” The head of information nurse from Cancer Research UK, Martin Lediwck comments, “Patients with basal cell skin cancer are usually treated with either surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy creams or immunotherapy creams depending on the stage and extent of their cancer.
If further research shows this treatment is as effective as other treatments for basal cell skin cancers, it will give doctors further options to help them tailor treatment as individually as possible to the needs of each patient.”
Professor Ceiro, who is the head of the Skin Cancer Unit at Barts &The London NHS Trust also spoke to the Huffington Post to give his insight into implications about non invasive radioactive treatments. “There is an increasing number of non-surgical treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer, and the latest trials are certainly an important development as skin cancer is a huge problem in the UK with numbers rising each year.
While light-induced treatment called photodynamic therapy (PDT), where cream is applied to the tumour and the chemicals are absorbed into the tumour, is already widely used around the world, it’s reassuring to hear that an advanced version of this has been created, as PDT is very costly.
It’s important that these new developments are scrutinised and put into proper patient compared trials to ensure it’s safe and effective for the patient. I’d also say that it’s really important that patients are diagnosed correctly on what type of tumour they have before deciding on how to treat it.
These should always be biopsy proven.” He added, “The advantages of the surgical approach are that you know you’ve got the whole tumour out. Plus you know exactly what it is. Whereas with non-surgical treatments, medical staff will need to be 100% certain that they know what they’re treating, as basal cell and squamous cell cancer can be aggressive – especially the squamous cell which can get into the blood vessels and be fatal.
This type of cancer kills 500-600 people a year. Overall, I think non-surgical treatment is a positive thing as long as it’s managed in the correct context and patients have been given the correct diagnosis and advice.”
The UK will have to wait two more years before this treatment is available here.