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Researchers in Australia have discovered a range of new treatments for melanoma – a type of skin cancer - that could wipe out the disease within a week.
The Sydney Melanoma Unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital is performing a clinical trial in which individual tumours are injected with a red dye called Rose Bengal, which has been used for 50 years to diagnose liver and eye cancer. It has also been used as an insecticide.
John Thompson, Unit director, said that within a week the tumours become necrotic and die, and within 14 days they simply lift off the skin.
He said that a previous trial of 20 patients showed between 60 and 80 per cent of tumours were successfully treated with one injection.
The trial also showed that rose bengal didn't affect healthy tissue and seemed to induce a beneficial immune system response that killed off other tumours that hadn't been injected.
"It has been interesting to observe that not only injected tumour deposits undergo involution [reduction] and necrosis but non-injected 'bystander' lesions sometimes undergo involution as well," Brisbane Times quoted him, as telling the Australasian College of Dermatologists annual meeting last week.
Thompson said that one segment of the trial had proved the treatment was safe, although one woman ended up in intensive care with a serious reaction after driving for 1 hours in the summer sun after having her injection.
Thompson said that about 120 patients were given an injection made from materials from their own tumour.
The procedure was developed to boost the body's immune system to reject the tumour.
The patients had metastatic stage IV disease and an average life expectancy of six to nine months.
The trial showed those who got the vaccine had a 40 per cent chance of surviving for five years, as compared to 22 per cent for those who weren't vaccinated.
"It surprised us greatly - there was a fairly substantial benefit in the patients who received the vaccine," Thompson said.
For another study, Thompson is hoping to recruit 65 patients who have melanomas that can't be treated with surgery.