London, Jan 6 (IANS) A radioactive ‘paste’ could cure skin cancer in just two hours, say researchers.
It can destroy tumours caused by skin cancers without surgery or conventional radiotherapy.
The treatment, however, is not suitable for malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Experts say there are minimal side effects and the treatment does not even leave a scar, the Daily Mail reported Friday.
The breakthrough therapy, which has been used on 700 patients in Italy with a success rate of up to 95 percent, could be available in Britain within two years.
The new technique can treat basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These cancers affect 100,000 people in Britain every year, the newspaper said.
The vast majority of those who suffer the less dangerous forms have surgery to remove the affected tissue.
Other treatments include radiotherapy and ‘freezing’ of the tumours if they are small and superficial.
But an estimated three percent of patients have deep tumours that are difficult to remove surgically because they are on sensitive areas such as the eyes, nose or ears. Others cannot have surgery due to age or medical conditions.
These patients are given radiotherapy that often results in serious side-effects.
For the new technique, Italian researchers harnessed rhenium-188, a radioactive isotope that was previously rare and expensive.
But now it is being supplied in quantities large enough to treat thousands of patients a week by nuclear physicists at the British-funded Institut Laue-Langevin in France.
The treatment, which is said to be painless, involves putting a piece of surgical foil on the tumour area, painting on the radioactive paste and removing it one or two hours later.
Researchers believe that the radiation causes healthy skin to re-grow, so there is no scarring.
In the Italian trial, 85 percent of patients were cured after one treatment and up to 95 percent after three treatments.
Oliver Buck, chief executive of the German technology firm ITM which developed the therapy, said: ‘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.’
Trials are now being held in Germany and Australia, and Buck believes the treatment could be licensed in Britain within two years.