DEC 02, 2016 5:30 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
MAR 19, 2021
Cancer
What does RNA editing do to the immune system?
MAR 19, 2021
What does RNA editing do to the immune system?
A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications from the University of Colorado Cancer Center explores new ...
APR 02, 2021
Cancer
Missing link identified for "bad" cholesterol
APR 02, 2021
Missing link identified for "bad" cholesterol
New research from a team at the University of Alberta has identified the protein that is associated with low-density lip ...
APR 16, 2021
Cancer
Ion pump delivers chemotherapy directly to brain tumors
APR 16, 2021
Ion pump delivers chemotherapy directly to brain tumors
New research published in Advanced Materials Technologies highlights a development in fighting glioblastoma. The study f ...
MAY 17, 2021
Cancer
Cells at the center of a tumor are more aggressive and spread faster
MAY 17, 2021
Cells at the center of a tumor are more aggressive and spread faster
New research stemming from a collaboration between researchers from the Francis Crick Institute, Royal Marsden, UCL and ...
MAY 15, 2021
Cancer
What does your polygenic risk score mean?
MAY 15, 2021
What does your polygenic risk score mean?
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recommends that people with a high polygenic risk score ...
JUN 07, 2021
Cancer
Inflammatory-rich diet associated with greater risk of developing breast cancer
JUN 07, 2021
Inflammatory-rich diet associated with greater risk of developing breast cancer
A breakthrough study soon to be presented at NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE later this week reports that women who main ...
Loading Comments...