A CREAM used to treat warts is showing early promise as a means to combat recurrent outbreaks of skin cancer.
The cream contains the potent allergen diphencyprone (DPCP), and a trial is underway using it to prompt a person’s immune system to attack melanomas which have resisted conventional treatments.
Eighteen people have completed a three-month trial using the prescription-only cream, with positive results.
“In about two-thirds of the patients treated so far we’ve been able to achieve complete clearance of their skin melanomas,” said Associate Professor Diona Damian, from the Sydney Cancer Centre. “It is still considered an experimental agent even though we are relying on it more and more, mainly because these are patients who generally have no other option.
“They have nothing to lose – except their tumours.” DPCP, which is not found in nature, triggers a powerful allergic reaction in almost all people when placed on their skin. The body responds by rallying immune cells to the area to repel the DPCP and “hopefully the melanoma cells will be destroyed as well”.
Dr Damian said those using it needed close monitoring to prevent potential adverse effects but it was otherwise a “very simple, inexpensive and low tech approach”. “And we’re finding it surprisingly effective given that the treatment costs between five cents and a dollar a week,” she said.
Dr Damian said the treatment could be used in those who had secondary cancers that remained after their primary cancer had been removed with surgery. “A primary melanoma virtually always needs to be cut out … this is a cream that we are using in people who have recurrent disease,” Dr Damian said.
Results of the trial were presented at the Australasian College of Dermatologists Annual Scientific Meeting in Darwin this week.