A ‘Plaster’ Now Available To Treat Skin Cancer

Medics at the at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, UK, have recently unveiled a light emitting ‘Ambulight Plaster’, that uses focussed light to zap cancerous cells that cause skin cancer. This plaster is placed on the affected area of the skin after applying a medicated cream, followed by giving the area a photodynamic therapy treatment (PDT) that destroys cancer cells.

Earlier treatment for non-melanoma patients involved application of medicated cream for hours to make the affected area light sensitive, before undergoing light sensitive treatment. However, with this new approach, patients can walk in and out of hospitals within minutes, making the Ambulight device the fastest and most comfortable method to treat skin cancer. This method also reduces the risk of scarring when compared to the conventional method.

Ifor Samuel, professor of physics at St Andrews University, and James Ferguson, professor of dermatology at Dundee University, have been working on the plaster for five years and believe it could help hospitals save time and money in outpatient appointments. Currently, non-melanoma skin cancer is reported in about 2 to 3 million people across the globe and becomes fatal if undetected or diagnosed late. This new technology could help diagnosing the cancer early and preventing deaths.

Photodynamic therapy has been used for years to treat skin cancer. But it has never before been possible to treat the condition in such a versatile way. Professor Ferguson said: “We wanted to develop something portable to treat people at home and free up hospital resources. We’ve had 80 or 90 per cent clearance rate and are hoping to develop a smaller device with a watch battery-size power source which will look almost like a normal sticking plaster.”

Dr Alison Ross, of Cancer Research UK, said: “It will be interesting to see the results of proper trials of these devices to find out if they are as effective as conventional therapy.”

Ambulight’s photodynamic therapy is less painful than surgery and has already been successful in tests on 50 patients.

Written by Snigdha Taduri