DEC 02, 2016 05:30 AM PST

Early Skin Cancer May be Treatable with New Topical Cream

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
Good news for patients with early stage skin cancer: a combination drug seems to be effective at attacking the skin cancer cells. And on top of that, the drug combo can be applied topically. Furthermore, because the drugs have already been approved and prescribed for years, thiscould significantly shorten the time before this new drug combo makes it to the market.


The drug is a combination of 5-fluorouracil, a common chemotherapy drug, and calcipotriol, a synthetic version of vitamin D. Both drugs are already approved for the treatment of skin-related conditions: 5-fluorouracil is prescribed for patients with actinic keratinosis, and calcipotriol treats psoriasis.
 
But together is better. In a trial, researchers found that the combination drug reduced the number of precancerous lesions on the face by 88 percent. By contrast, chemotherapy alone showed only a 26 percent reduction.
 
Of note, the drug is effective against early skin cancer known as actinic keratinosis. Untreated, this type of precancer evolves into squamous cell carcinoma, a fully dangerous skin cancer.
 
"We looked at precancerous lesions on patients with sun-damaged skin," said Washington University dermatologist and study co-author Lynn A. Cornelius, MD, director of the Division of Dermatology. "Most commonly found on the face, scalp and arms, these lesions appear abnormal by visual examination and under the microscope but are not full-blown skin cancers. But because these lesions have the potential to develop into a true skin cancer, they are commonly treated. Our study shows this combination therapy is more effective and better tolerated than current treatment practices."
 
The ease of application for this new chemo combo is unparalleled. The cream, applied topically on the skin, appears to boost the immune response. This sends more T cells to attack the abnormal cells at the precancerous lesions.
 

"The idea behind this study was to induce a heightened immune response in the skin using calcipotriol combined with the 5-fluorouracil that works to destroy the precancerous cells," Cornelius said. "In so doing, the destroyed precancerous cells release cell proteins, or antigens, and facilitate the heightened immune system to respond. We compared the two-drug formulation to 5-fluorouracil alone over a shorter application period -- four days as opposed to two to four weeks that is typical for the standard treatment of 5-fluorouracil alone."
 
"Because calcipotriol has been shown to induce an immune response, we are now interested in seeing if the anti-tumor immunity of the activated T cells can be recalled later to help prevent both precancerous and cancerous skin lesions," Cornelius said. "We are now planning to re-contact our patients to determine whether there are differences in precancerous and skin cancer rates between the two treatment groups."

Additional source: Washington University in St. Louis
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 18, 2018
Immunology
JUL 18, 2018
Immunotherapy Increases Survival of Melanoma Brain Metastases Patients
Use of Checkpoint Blockade Immunotherapy increases survival rates in Melanoma Brain Metastases patients, with a 4-year survival rate increase from 11.1% to 28.1%...
JUL 31, 2018
Cancer
JUL 31, 2018
Can Medicine Prevent Cisplatin-associated Hearing Loss for Pediatric Cancer Patients?
Researchers have determined that sodium thiosulfate's antioxidant properties can prevent hearing loss in pediatric cancer patients being treated with Cisplatin....
AUG 14, 2018
Cancer
AUG 14, 2018
Using Arsenic to Enhance Cancer Therapies Beyond Leukemia
An already existing combination of arsenic and all-trans retinoic acid is found to inhibit a key signaling pathway that exerts broad effect on oncogenic processes for some solid tumors....
AUG 26, 2018
Cancer
AUG 26, 2018
Can antireflux surgery prevent Esophageal cancer?
Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a widespread health problem affecting 10 to 20% of adults in Western populations. If GERD left untre...
OCT 02, 2018
Health & Medicine
OCT 02, 2018
Many Patients Are Unaware of Increased Cancer Risk
Just as recently as a few decades ago, many common health screenings were not readily available. Mammography, for breast cancer detection, wasn't ...
NOV 20, 2018
Immunology
NOV 20, 2018
Mutations Mutations Which Ones Do We Want?
A team at UCSF makes use of new SLICE tool to generate mutations that reveal specific genetic functions....
Loading Comments...