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A Band-Aid For Cancer

Posted by Lauren Rugani on June 16, 2009

With increasing research and successful experimentation, potential cancer therapies are moving away from invasive surgeries and toxic radiation toward less invasive, less destructive methods. Several new treatments involve attaching drugs to tiny nanoparticles, which are absorbed by tumor cells and then burst by light or sound waves, killing the cancerous cells. While these techniques generally do not harm healthy cells, there is still apprehension about injecting nanoparticles into the body as little is known about their long term effects.

Now, researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi have successfully treated patients with basal cell carcinoma, one of the most common types of skin cancer, with a topical remedy. At this week’s Society of Nuclear Medicine Annual Meeting in Toronto, the scientists described a radioactive skin patch that completely eradicated facial skin cancer in eight adult patients who otherwise had no underlying cancer cells. The patch, which contains phosphorus-32, delivers beta radiation directly to the cancer site and has no toxic effect on healthy cells.

In an outpatient procedure, patches matching the size and shape of the individual lesions were applied to the skin for three hours, then again for three hours each on two more sessions held on subsequent days. After three months, the researchers found no residual cancer cells nor toxic effects from the radiation in the blood. Because basal cell carcinoma exists on the epidermis, or outermost layer of the skin, the beta radiation doesn’t penetrate far enough to affect bone or bone marrow. Finally, the patients had minimal scarring or other disfiguring effects, which are a common result of current surgical or radiation therapies.

While cancerous cells near the surface of the skin are easier to treat than tumors buried deep in the tissue in or around vital organs, this novel treatment shows promise for nuclear medicine as a safer alternative to difficult surgery or radiation therapy.


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