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Medicine Science

Patch Makes Certain Skin Cancers Disappear 90

Posted by samzenpus
from the peel-and-no-sick dept.
kkleiner writes "What if treating skin cancer was just a matter of wearing a patch for a few hours? At this year's Society of Nuclear Medicine's Annual Meeting one group of researchers presented such a patch. The patch is infused with phosphorus-32, a radioactive isotope used to treat some types of cancer. In a study of 10 patients with basal cell carcinoma located on their faces, the patch was applied for three hours, then for another three hours four and seven days later. Six months after treatment, 8 of the patients were cancer free."
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Patch Makes Certain Skin Cancers Disappear

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  • pimple popper MD is now pacther MD

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Elaine: Yeah, how's the doctor date?
      Jerry: Eh, died on the table. Just spent hour and a half making me feel, if I don't save lives, I'm worthless.
      Elaine: Well, she's very focused. Dermatology is her life.
      Jerry: Dermatology?
      Elaine: Yes, she's a dermatologist.
      Jerry: Saving lives? The whole profession is; eh, just put some aloe on it.

      George: When are you going on your next date with her?
      Jerry: Oh, what's the point?
      George: What, you're gonna pass up a wonderful opportunity to put that aloe pusher in her place?
      J

  • Too Small A Sample (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:08PM (#40394029)
    This is great news, and wonderful progress, but a sample of 10 patients isn't big enough. Hopefully this will get into full trials soon and then make it to market.
    • by rasmusbr (2186518) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @12:35AM (#40394543)

      Basal cell is one of the least malignant forms of cancer there is and mostly occurs in old people, so it's not like it's going to save a ton of lives.

      In fact, I bet one of the reasons why this treatment would make sense is that there is typically no rush to cure the tumor and then you might as well try a non-intrusive treatment like a patch first and only go for surgery if the patch doesn't kill the cancer.

      • Agreed. If it were melanoma, my whole family would be shitting our genes.

        GET IT?!?!
      • It wouldn't be saving lives simply because basal cell is barely malignant -- since it often strikes people in their 50s and 60s, their age wouldn't have much to do with it, as they're likely to live another 25+ years.

        (It's also hard to consider Mohs surgery invasive, as it's basically a skin equivalent to having a cavity treated, but that's more a matter of perspective... I think of "invasive" as referring to something that's done on the inside of the body and would be very painful without anesthetic.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Basal cell is one of the least malignant forms of cancer there is and mostly occurs in old people, so it's not like it's going to save a ton of lives.

        and yet it is what killed my grandfather, so I'm sure for the lives it does save (or extend) the patients will be appreciative.

      • ... then you might as well try a non-intrusive treatment like a patch first and only go for surgery if the patch doesn't kill the cancer.

        I'd rather try what Rick Simpson says cured his BCC [phoenixtears.ca]. Once it was known many of his friends were cured of various ailments (by applying or consuming the hemp oil) he had to leave Canada to avoid incarceration. Check out the Video Library on his site for more info on this banned cure. No, I have not tried it as I've not had the need (yet), but there is a ton of evidence that the source plant has amazing healing qualities and has been used for over 5000+ years by modern man for myriad uses.

        This is the link [youtube.com]

    • by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @02:33AM (#40395083)

      A sample of ten is normal in medical terms.

      I have participated in medical research as volunteer (mostly for trials on the uptake of drugs e.g. inhale vs. intravenous) and sample size was normally 6-12 patients. No more than that, I was told that such a sample size is large enough. Also costs are high of those experiments, which is an incentive to keep sizes small.

      For such a first experiment, a group of ten patients sounds very reasonable to me. Now they can follow those patients for a while to see if there are any after effects, and if all looks good continue with larger trials, potentially making it a standard treatment for this cancer.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As a dermatologist I find this interesting, although remain skeptical. Radiotherapy is already utilized for non-melanoma skin cancer in older people where recurrence rates of 30% don't matter (ie the patient dies of something else before the cancer recurrence becomes a problem). Also, I wouldn't want to use this in young patients due to inducing new cancers secondary to the radioactive treatment.

      The scientific abstract (http://jnumedmtg.snmjournals.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/53/1_MeetingAbstracts/62)

  • CancerOff! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:11PM (#40394061)
    Apply directly to the [cancerous] forehead!
  • Science! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Georules (655379) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:12PM (#40394067)
    All that science and what we do is put radiation creme on a bandaid. good 'nuff.
  • And as usual... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wonkavader (605434) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:15PM (#40394103)

    ...there was no control group.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      To be fair Basal cell carcinoma has pretty much a 0% chance of resolving untreated.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The control group wouldn't be a placebo, it would be whatever the conventional treatment is.

    • Re:And as usual... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2 AT anthonymclin DOT com> on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:23PM (#40394157) Homepage

      I'm sure there's enough statistical studies out there that show skin cancer doesn't just disappear.

      So control group not necessary.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, but how do we know that putting a simple nonradioactive bandaid over the cancer won't work as well?

        • Re:And as usual... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by bmo (77928) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:45PM (#40394289)

          Because we already know what happens to untreated cancers and have the statistics already gathered. We can compare the efficacy of these radioactive bandages to the data collected for untreated skin cancers over the last 100 years. We can then compare the efficacy or lack thereof to the historic numbers.

          But we don't have to do that either. We can compare the efficacy of this treatment to other established treatments as controls. It will be either more or less effective. The key is to have something to compare.

          Having people go untreated for the sake of formality is unconscionable.

          --
          BMO

          • Re:And as usual... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by wonkavader (605434) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:58PM (#40394355)

            No, you need the non-treated bandaids as a control. Unless you can show that the same techniques were already used in almost identical conditions with untreated bandaids, in which case we can compare against that. It's not high-quality, but it's something. And unless the patients were told in this other study from which we're borrowing the control, that the bandaids have a radioactive pellet on them, it's not really testing all your conditions.

            You don't know, in this case, whether it's the bandaid, the radioactive agent, or the placibo effect.

            Having thousands or even millions of people later treated using a technique you haven't studied properly is what's really unconscionable, and this happens in medicine all the time.

            • by Taevin (850923)
              Except that we're talking about a life-threatening medical condition. This isn't like arthritis medication or ED pills. It's one thing to conduct a study where you give one group a known treatment that improves patients' chances of not dying a painful death by X% and another a new treatment that may or may not do anything. It's quite another to say that whoever gets put in the control group is just SOL. You have to balance ethics with scientific efficacy. Surely you wouldn't suggest an acceptable protocol f
              • Re:And as usual... (Score:4, Informative)

                by LordLucless (582312) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @01:45AM (#40394891)

                Basal cell cancinoma [wikipedia.org] is not life-threatening. The rest of your post is irrelevant.

                • True, but the longer it has to develop, the nastier the scar when removed; being part of a control group isn't supposed to cause unnecessary harm, even it's "merely" visible scars. (My mother waited several months, and has a dent-like scar on her forehead; it's not really visible, but it does make her really self-conscious.)

                  • I'm not saying it's pleasant (or even necessarily that control groups are needed, or ethical). I was just countering the "doctors standing by watching people dying a painful death" that the GGP was blathering on about.

                • I read the Wikipedia page too. It says in part

                  The cancer can impinge on vital structures like nerves and result in loss of sensation or loss of function or rarely death. The vast majority of cases can be successfully treated before serious complications occur.

                  Death isn't the only consequence of not treating this cancer, and the page doesn't seem to discuss patient outcomes without treatment anyway. The rest of the GP's post was not irrelevant, but yours nearly is.

                • by Taevin (850923)
                  Oh good, you can read Wikipedia. You might be surprised to learn that I can as well. In fact since you failed to actually fully comprehend the first line, I'll repeat it here:

                  Basal-cell carcinoma (BCC), a skin cancer, is the most common cancer. It rarely metastasizes or kills. However, because it can cause significant destruction and disfigurement by invading surrounding tissues, it is still considered malignant.

                  So yes, I'm aware that basal cell carcinoma is rarely fatal. However, we're still talking about

                  • Except that we're talking about a life-threatening medical condition.

                    improves patients' chances of not dying a painful death by X%

                    team of doctors stand there and watch while they died

                    --

                    So yes, I'm aware that basal cell carcinoma is rarely fatal.

                    Your previous post suggests not.

                    You know, since I was responding to a post more-or-less arguing to throw out ethics since it doesn't allow you to test all conditions

                    No, you were responding to a post claiming that not including controls was not valid science. The GP made no claims about whether it was ethical or not, simply that it was required for good science. It's quite possible that it may not be possible to ethically conduct good science in that area.

            • Just throwing this out there: they may not have started out testing in humans. They may have tested this in animals first, in which case they would have hopefully done those controls. Clinical trials aren't standard experiments by necessity.

              Also, I think at this point unless we have reason to believe that the placebo effect can actually revert cells back to non-cancerous, I think it's not a serious concern.
            • by bmo (77928)

              When doctors know sin:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuskegee_syphilis_experiment [wikipedia.org]

              There are times when placebo tests are unconscionable. QED.

              Sacrificing ethics for the sake of blindly following procedure is wrong and has led to the suffering of many people. Like the above syphilis study, once the data for untreated basal cell carcinoma patients is known we shouldn't collect more data. We do not need to deny treatment to people with basal cell carcinoma.

              Sure, it's not perfect science, but people are not proto

        • They don't use band-aids. The controls for these studies are whatever the best existing treatment is. The study succeeds if it outperforms the current gold standard.

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      ...there was no control group.

      They can't find the duct tape control group.

    • Maybe the preventative application of a patch saves skin from any damage in the first place!
    • by aqmxv (1469151)

      And as usual, /. poster is stuck on arbitrary methodological constructs s/he learned by rote rather than bothering to understand a) the problem, b) the investigative process in use, or c) the assessable probability of a false outcome without a double-blind administered control group.

      And now the answers to a), b), and c) above:

      a) basal cell carcinoma varies from almost invisible to looking like acne rosacea. As it gets worse, it usually gets closer to the the acne/rash appearance. It's not generally fa

  • by sideslash (1865434) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:27PM (#40394175)
    So... if you treat your (non-lethal) basal cell carcinoma with a radioactive patch, can you accidentally give yourself (highly lethal) melanoma?
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      This phosphorus-32 is a beta-emitter, and being applied directly to the skin the dose is highest at the tumour, and then quickly decreases as the particles disperse, and are stopped by other matter.

      It is of course not something to leave on for long time, it will damage you. The principle of course, like with all radiation therapy, is that the damage done is less than the problem solved. Also I would expect that this can be applied to other skin cancers that are sensitive to radiation, making the treatment e

    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      So... if you treat your (non-lethal) basal cell carcinoma with a radioactive patch, can you accidentally give yourself (highly lethal) melanoma?

      More likely if you apply too many patches and wear them too long your skin will turn green and give you big muscles.

  • It's stupid shit like this that makes people keep thinking radiation is some form of magic.

    I might as well call radiation therapy devices like tomotherapy [accuray.com] "giant cancer-fighting plastic donuts", or refer to brachytherapy seeds [oxfordjournals.org] as "Curative metal rice grains".

    Radiation is a highly effective type of poison. Just like certain poisons [wikipedia.org], radiation sometimes causes cancer, and like other poisons [foxnews.com], sometimes it cures cancer.

    To put an article like "patch cures cancer" on a "news for nerds" website and have the punch

    • by goombah99 (560566) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:43PM (#40394271)

      Radiation differentially kills rapidly dividing cells more than non-dividing cells. Hence it is a poison that affects cancer cells more than normal cells.

      • by XiaoMing (1574363)

        Radiation differentially kills rapidly dividing cells more than non-dividing cells. Hence it is a poison that affects cancer cells more than normal cells.

        Never said radiation wasn't a specialized poison.

        I'm not trying to comment on the biochemistry of the form of damage that radiation is good at creating, nor am I commenting on the biology of why these free radicals preferentially kills cancer cells (rapid proliferation sure, but more importantly you should mention lack of repair mechanisms, or else you'd be guaranteed more cancer in the healthy cells after radiation therapy, just with a time-delay based on the difference in proliferation rates).

        I trying to

  • Radioactive White Phosphorus ? What could pssilbly go wrong?

    But the word 'certain' doesn't belong in the headline, it is misleading.

  • Proof of concept (Score:5, Informative)

    by chooks (71012) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:59PM (#40394361)

    Basal cell carcinomas are locally invasive but do not metastasize. Excision with negative margins is curative. Where I can see this beneficial is with larger tumors that are more difficult to resect without severe disfigurement, or as neoadjuvant therapy to shrink tumor size prior to surgery (as is done with other tumors in other body locations).

    However, unnecessary radiation to the head and neck has historically proven to cause more harm than good (e.g. treatment of acne with x-rays which then was linked to papillary thyroid carcinoma). So...not sure how I excited I would be personally to do this without getting more data.

    • by istartedi (132515)

      According to Wiki [wikipedia.org] it beta decays into an electron which can be blocked with "5 mm of perspex". I'm not sure how human tissue compares with the blocking power of perspex. The other particle is an electron anti-neutrino (!) which passes harmlessly through almost everything. No gamma radiation is produced. No neutrons are produced.

      If I had to be irradiated with something, Phosphorus 32 doesn't sound that bad.

      • by XiaoMing (1574363) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @01:08AM (#40394711)

        According to Wiki [wikipedia.org] it beta decays into an electron which can be blocked with "5 mm of perspex". I'm not sure how human tissue compares with the blocking power of perspex. The other particle is an electron anti-neutrino (!) which passes harmlessly through almost everything. No gamma radiation is produced. No neutrons are produced.

        If I had to be irradiated with something, Phosphorus 32 doesn't sound that bad.

        Ionizing radiation can both cause and cure cancer via DNA damage. If this patch can destroy cancerous DNA, it also has a nonzero chance of creating more cancerous cells in healthy cells. So no, you can't make-believe that it's curing cancer while the rest of your skin is immune to its effects.

        Additionally, most polymers can roughly be approximated as tissue-equivalent as far as penetration depth goes (only density matters to first order), which means that these electrons will penetrate up to 5mm (half a centimeter, mind you) of skin. That's well beyond the ~1mm of dead epidermal skin, and can reach the dermal stem cells.

        Moral is if you're ever drunk at a party and see 32P laying around, remember that Wikipedia doesn't empower you to be immune to cancer.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It also doesn't empower people from posting stupid things on Slashdot....

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphorus-32#Nuclear_medicine [wikipedia.org]

          P-32 is *injected* into people! Placed on skin at a tumor site it is very target specific, with minimal collateral damage. Clearly, the course of action is it damages cells resulting in local inflammation and immune system cleaning up the remains, including the damaged tumor (not all tumor cells need to be damaged for the resulting body reaction to kill it).

          This belief that rad

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Turksarama (2666917)
          5mm may be fairly deep, but remember that the amount of radiation drops of exponentially AND radiation is much better at killing cancerous cells than it is at converting healthy cells into cancerous ones. Worst case scenario is you get a new cancer where the old one already was, which you are probably watching very closely so it'll be picked up early.
          • by XiaoMing (1574363)

            Malignancy due to radiation is not deterministic. To treat it as "worst case scenario" is very irresponsible. Also, electron dose drops off in a non-analytical fashion dependent on the spectrum of the incident beam.

            • If you can think of a worse scenario than another cancer forming I'd like to know what it is. You also talk as if people who've looked into this more than either of us weren't already using beta radiation to treat cancers. The only difference between this and other radiation therapies is that the radiation is more precisely targeted. If you can make a convincing case that this is somehow more dangerous than current treatments I will gladly concede the point.
      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        The same article mentions that P-32 can be used as radioactive marker, as it can be detected outside the body. So at least part of the beta-particles make it pretty far through tissue.

    • Basal cell carcinomas are locally invasive but do not metastasize. Excision with negative margins is curative.

      It's not flat-out curative -- the current approach is Mohs surgery, and that has a 94-97% effectiveness depending on whether the cancer is new or a recurrence. Wikipedia explains the reasons [wikipedia.org] in case you're curious.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Actually BCCs can metastasize. It's rare and only occurs when the BCCs become large (>2cm I believe).

      I have a hereditary condition which leads to lots of BCCs and this treatment (if itturns out to be useful) may be helpful. My mum, for example, has just had a graft the size of my hand on her head just because of the number of BCCs occurring. She's now at the point where further surgery is a problem. Also, despite radiotherapy being contrindicated in multiple BCC syndrome, she's had to have it but, again,

    • by sjames (1099)

      Typically, the radiation to the head that has proven problematic has been more penetrating than beta, such as x-rays as you mentioned.

      Keep in mind, however slight, excision isn't actually ZERO risk. Add in the risk that some people freak out over the word surgery (and so totally miss the words outpatient, office, and minor) and the radiation patch starts to look like at least a reasonable option.

  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @12:37AM (#40394557)

    If only they can fix it where the people who use it don't start stomping around Tokyo breathing fire and knocking buildings down, it will be ready for market.

  • ...and send a pull request to $DEITY, please?

    This closed source science cannot succeed. It's pushing up medical costs and making research more diffi....

    Wait, what? Not a patch to the source code? A patch on the skin?

    Nevermind...

  • by mark-t (151149)
    Any one of the many slashdotters who believe in the medical industry conspiracy wanna say how medicine never focuses on curing disease, but only on treatment, because keeping a sick patient alive is more profitable than making one healthy that won't need to keep paying for the treatment?
    • Are you trying to suggest that this treatment actually cures the disease?
      • by mark-t (151149)

        Are you trying to suggest that this treatment actually cures the disease?

        FTS:

        "Six months after treatment, 8 (of 10) of the patients were cancer free."

        Note... cancer *FREE*

        Which means they won't need to keep on getting treatment... or have to keep on going paying for treatment. Which seems to be the assumption that drives the notion that there is a medical conspiracy to never focus on curing diseases.

        So... yes.

  • I've had six surgeries for basal cell carcinomas, three of which were on my face and fairly extensive. The longest healing time was about three weeks that left a scar from just below my left eye to my upper lip. I'm a battle scarred 'old fuck' (love ya Georgie) anyway so a few more don't matter to me. This new procedure is really great, though, for those beautiful people that care about such things.
  • Patch Tuesday was last week.

  • I thought you had to wait several years, not months before declaring the cancer cured!
  • Isn't this usually treated with liquid nitrogen? Freeze a patch of cancerous skin, the cells rupture and die, leaving behind a nasty scar. How is radiation better?
    • Isn't this usually treated with liquid nitrogen? Freeze a patch of cancerous skin, the cells rupture and die, leaving behind a nasty scar. How is radiation better?

      RTFA. No scar.

  • I read 'patch' and my first reaction was: cyborgs? already? Wow! Although radioactive pellets on a band-aid is pretty cool, still... sigh.
  • i'm sorry, but it is illegal in the UK and the US and some other countries as well to say that you can cure cancer. publishing this slashdot article has therefore broken the law, and so has the publication of the research paper. look up the gerson institute and why they moved to mexico. also, please do not mod this comment down just because it tells you something that's true (but unbelievably stupid). don't shoot the messenger - or the message.

    • From what little I can find on the UK law at least, it is only illegal if you do not have "sufficient" scientific proof to back up your claim which to me at least seems perfectly reasonable. This law was put in place to stop people from doing things like selling magnets and colloidal silver claiming that it can cure or decrease risk of cancer.
  • "The trial is admittedly very small, and larger studies still need to be performed before the patent is bought by a major pharmaceutical company and shelved for 30 years."

  • Patch Makes Certain Skin Cancers Disappear

    Six months after treatment, 8 of the patients were cancer free.

    To paraphrase Douglas Adams, this a clearly some new meaning of the word "certain" of which I was previously unaware.

    • Haha, okay, there we go, it finally clicked.

      It may well be that the submitter meant it in the sense of "some" - but still, poor choice of word.

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