Lasers blast carcinoma

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a needle-free way of treating of skin cancer using a laser to activate a topical medication.

Pharmacy student Desmond Morrow worked with Dr Paul McCarron and Dr Ryan Donnelly from the Queen’s Medical Biology Centre to demonstrate a jet injection device that may be a potential way of eradicating ‘difficult to treat’ skin tumours.

The method employs a technique called photodynamic therapy (PDT), where a light-sensitive drug in the form of an ointment is rubbed on the area affected by the cancer and a laser triggers the active ingredient to destroy cancerous cells.

Morrow said: ‘Photodynamic therapy is a relatively new form of skin cancer treatment which results in tumour death. However, sometimes its success in individual patients is limited by the poor penetration of the active agent into the tumour. Our research shows that a new way of administering the drug can improve the amount that crosses the skin barrier and gets to the required site.’

According to McCarron and Donnelly, in Northern Ireland, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a prevalent form of skin cancer and conventional treatments for BCC include surgical excision and radiotherapy, which give acceptable clearance rates. However, both techniques are unsuitable for large or multiple lesions and can lead to poor cosmetic outcomes, such as scarring, especially on visible regions, like the face and upper torso.

The researchers said that photodynamic therapy has been shown to eradicate certain superficial skin lesions with remarkable selectivity, giving a more satisfactory clinical outcome.