Italian scientists have discovered a new, non-surgical skin cancer treatment using radioactive 'paint' which could save up to 3,000 lives a year - and can be done in as little as two hours.
The breakthrough treatment was tested on 700 patients with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, less aggressive forms of skin cancer, with the success rate of 95%, according to the Daily Mail.
Of the patients who took part in the trial, 85% were cured after just one treatment and 95% were cured after three treatments.
Researchers tested on non-melanoma skin cancer sufferers only and added that the treatment is not suitable for those with advanced skin cancer, known as malignant melanoma. This is also the case with patients suffering from deep, hard to reach tumours, which are difficult or too sensitive to remove without surgery or radiotherapy, such as in the eye, nose or ear.
The new skin cancer fighting technique works by using harnessed rhenium-188, a radioactive isotope. The patient has a piece of surgical foil placed on the tumour area and the radioactive paste ‘cream’ is rubbed in.
Scientists claim that the tumour disappears in one to two hours.
"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," says Oliver Buck, chief executive from Isotopen Technologien Munchen (ITM), which developed the treatment.
"The radiation does not affect surrounding tissue and also seems to activate the body’s healing mechanisms."
While trials are currently being held in Germany and Australia, researchers believe that it’ll be available in the UK within two years.
But what do British skin cancer experts make of this new development in non-surgical treatments for the disease?
“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,” Kim Hardwick, the senior cancer information nurse specialist from Macmillan Cancer Support told The Huffington Post.
Martin Lediwck, the head of information nurse from Cancer Research UK believes that any developments in skin cancer treatment can only be a positive thing.
"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,” Lediwick told The Huffington Post.
To get a deeper insight into the possible implications of the non-invasive radioactive treatment, The Huffington Post spoke to the head of the skin cancer unit at Barts and The London NHS Trusts, Professor Rino Ceiro.
"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," says professor Ceiro.
"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.
"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."
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