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Patch Makes Certain Skin Cancers Disappear

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the peel-and-no-sick dept.

Medicine 90

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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pimple popper MD is now pacther MD (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394013)

pimple popper MD is now pacther MD

Re:pimple popper MD is now pacther MD (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40394377)

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?
Jerry: Revenge date? That sound like you more than me.
George: This good be so sweet, Jerry. Saving lives? She's one step away working at the Clinique counter!
Jerry: Dermatologist? Skin doesn't need a doctor!
George: Of course not! Wash it, dry it, move on!
Jerry: You're right. I'm gonna call her right now and tell her off.
George: No no no no no, this has to be carefully orchestrated. You go to a fancy dinner, flowers...
Jerry: Flowers?
George: Yeah, you gotta do it classy [wipes his mouth to his sweater.]
Jerry: So, you've done this?
George: Almost. Couldn't get the girl go out with me the second time.

Too Small A Sample (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Too Small A Sample (5, Informative)

rasmusbr (2186518) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Too Small A Sample (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395023)

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

GET IT?!?!

Re:Too Small A Sample (3, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395171)

Well, you do slough off a lot of cells with your genome in them with every stool, so you are in fact shitting genes every time.

Re:Too Small A Sample (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 2 years ago | (#40396901)

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

GET IT?!?!

I dont. If you have shitty genes and you know it you shouldnt reproduce.

Re:Too Small A Sample (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397095)

It's a pun, you joyless twit.

Not /that/ old... (2)

TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395435)

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:Too Small A Sample (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40395829)

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.

Re:Too Small A Sample (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397495)

Deaths from basal cell or squamous skin cancer are incredibly rare, and usually result from the patient either ignoring the cancer or refusing treatment for decades.

Very occasionally a person can't get treatment (you could successfully treat a basal cell carcinoma in the early stages with a sharp rock or the edge of a tin can lid, as long as you boiled your instrument first), so we're literally talking about people living in pre-surgical cultures, which are pretty rare any more.

If your grandfather lived in any culture sophisticated enough to have mirrors, he almost certainly would not have been saved by any sort of therapy, because he simply wasn't going in for treatment. You can't save people who don't show up for saving.

Re:Too Small A Sample (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40398733)

Basal cell carcinoma cost me half of my nose nine years ago.
I would have happily tried a patch.

Re:Too Small A Sample (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40400983)

Basal cell carcinoma cost me half of my nose nine years ago.

How do you smell?

Try hemp oil instead (1)

thoughtlover (83833) | more than 2 years ago | (#40405035)

... 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] for the video I saw that made me even more aware of this plant's awesome powers.

Personally, I'd rather not use radioactive 'anything' since there's more than enough ambient radiation to deal with --just before confirming this post, I noticed he's making mention how useful hemp oil is in alleviating (or protecting from) the damage from high-level radiation poisoning right on the Phoenix Tears homepage.

Re:Too Small A Sample (5, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Too Small A Sample (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40395715)

If the effect is big enough (80% success looks pretty good to me), you don't need a big sample to show a significant result. Unfortunately, neither the article nor the summary says anything about the control group, so it's difficult to be sure: if the disease is self-limiting within 6 months 75% of the time anyway, then you'd need a much bigger sample, but that seems rather unlikely.

Re:Too Small A Sample (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40395833)

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) mentions a recurrence rate of 20% although this was a very small study. Mohs surgery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohs_surgery) achieves a recurrence rate of 1% with skilled surgeons.

Its also interesting to note Indian's doing research on non-melanoma skin cancer which is mainly a white-persons disease (although it obviously occurs in others). Nonmelanoma skin cancers tend to behave a lot more aggressively in Australia/New Zealand and are best treated with surgery (obviously for those that can).

Re:Too Small A Sample (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397569)

And it will never see the light of day. Cures aren't profitable.

CancerOff! (5, Funny)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394061)

Apply directly to the [cancerous] forehead!

four and seven (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394411)

Four and seven sounds like primary school math and the total must be eleventeen...

Yargh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40394501)

But four and twenty... mmm that's good eatin'!

Science! (3, Funny)

Georules (655379) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394067)

All that science and what we do is put radiation creme on a bandaid. good 'nuff.

Re:Science! (4, Funny)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394129)

Worked in Fallout.

Re:Science! (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394417)

Next we'll hear of a Japanese guru from Fukushima who cures cancer by touching your face a couple of times...

And as usual... (3, Insightful)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394103)

...there was no control group.

Re:And as usual... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40394151)

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

Re:And as usual... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397391)

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

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

Dynedain (141758) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394157)

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

So control group not necessary.

Re:And as usual... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40394193)

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

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

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#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... (4, Insightful)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:And as usual... (2)

Taevin (850923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394777)

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 for a heart attack treatment would be for anyone randomly placed in the control group to have a team of doctors stand there and watch while they died/suffered permanent heart damage? Even if you do find that acceptable, I doubt an ethics review board will agree.

Re:And as usual... (3, Informative)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394891)

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

Re:And as usual... (1)

TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395287)

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.)

Re:And as usual... (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395343)

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.

Re:And as usual... (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395535)

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.

Re:And as usual... (1)

Taevin (850923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395579)

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 a serious condition and one that demands something more ethical than a no-op control group. Which was my one and only point. 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. As for your misquote below, may I suggest additional reading [wikipedia.org] , courtesy of Wikipedia?

Re:And as usual... (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395781)

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.

Re:And as usual... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40395765)

Surely you wouldn't suggest an acceptable protocol for a heart attack treatment would be for anyone randomly placed in the control group to have a team of doctors stand there and watch while they died/suffered permanent heart damage?

Doctor #1: Okay, by my watch the time of death is 4:59pm.
Doctor #2: Good timing! Let's go have a beer.
Patient: I'm not dead yet!
Doctor #3: Nurse, get us some morphine and a pillow, stat!

Re:And as usual... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395195)

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.

Re:And as usual... (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395861)

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 protons in an accelerator.

--
BMO

Re:And as usual... (2)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394387)

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.

Re:And as usual... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40394201)

please don't practice medicine.
please practice more statistics. - you need lot's more practice.

Re:And as usual... (1)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 2 years ago | (#40406705)

Existing data of other treatments can be used as your "control", especially if any of those treatments are the "standard" treatment in practice.

So you just need to test to see if your results are better than the standard. You don't need to test if your results are better than no treatment, or bandage-only treatments.

Re:And as usual... (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394391)

...there was no control group.

They can't find the duct tape control group.

Re:And as usual... (1)

ImWithBrilliant (741796) | more than 2 years ago | (#40396483)

Maybe the preventative application of a patch saves skin from any damage in the first place!

Re:And as usual... (1)

aqmxv (1469151) | more than 2 years ago | (#40402053)

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 fatal (although it often occurs on the face and head and can easily metastasize into nearby muscle, lymphatic, or bone tissue with bad outcomes). Traditional treatment is, however often disfiguring because of the necessity of removing all of the skin tissue to get down to the basal layer where the cancer is dividing. Patient ends up with a hole in skin down to the subcutaneous fat or muscle, and often needs a graft. Facial skin grafts are hard to match and can heal badly. What basal cell isn't is variably distributed within the afflicted population. You either have it or you don't, it's very easy and reliable to detect once suspected, and there's really no relevant difference between patients except number and size of carcinomas.

There's also no reason to suspect that a particular treatment will vary in effectiveness over history. IE: if you have ever put a band aid with skin cream or acne cream on ten (or more) randomly-selected BCC patients for a month and recorded the results, you now have a control group that can be compared against any future treatment trail pool of similar size and application method.

Conclusion: no need for a control group in this pilot study - we already know what a band aid will do for BCC.

b) This is a ten-patient pilot study. You do this mostly to see if the proposed treatment is safe for further study or not. If nobody gets sicker then you proceed with a second study. If you also develop some more data (like the 80% cure rate in the ten-sample group here), then great - you have something to put in the funding request for the next study. Trials where 80% are nauseous and develop lesions in seven days probably won't get a follow up. Publishing results at such an early stage of investigation is both a push for funding and for peer review follow-on studies. If such a study makes it into mainstream press (or /. for that matter) then it probably will be misinterpreted by people like the parent poster.

c) given b) above, the investigators are really just looking for a Boolean output signal: either the treatment warrants further study or it doesn't. They got their answer - nobody got sicker and 80% reported improvement. Off to the funding races for a bigger study with control groups and patient outcome tracking.

It's all about risk/reward. Why risk 10 people getting metastasis of their BCC just so that you can control a pilot study that's really more about safety and methodology than efficacy anyway?

It's not about blind, dogmatic adherence to what you learned in middle school about the scientific method.

Speaking as a former lab scientist, this is a perfectly OK methodology for a pilot study.

Speaking as the SO of a basal cell patient, I hope this works so that we can get away from cutting on people with knives to solve the problem. I'd be very curious to hear more about how big the carcinomas were and how well the surrounding healthy tissue filled in the void left by the dying irradiated carcinoma. If nothing else, it should be a lot cheaper treatment than Mohs surgery, and BCC doesn't discriminate based on patient healthcare coverage.

Radiation (2)

sideslash (1865434) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394175)

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

Re:Radiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40394239)

Yeah, just don't confuse it with your nicotine patch.....

Re:Radiation (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395141)

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 even more interesting.

Re:Radiation (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397289)

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.

Post that makes science sound like magic (1)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394249)

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 punchline be that it's just topical brachytherapy is pathetic.

no... it is like medicine. (3, Informative)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:no... it is like medicine. (1)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394667)

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 say that radiation is a form of poison, and has a mixture of qualities about it that are separately are neither magical, nor unique among poisons.
Yet TFA makes it seem like you rub "radiation" on a patch and it can make cancer "disappear".

Re:no... it is like medicine. (3, Insightful)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394863)

Yet TFA makes it seem like you rub "radiation" on a patch and it can make cancer "disappear".

But that's exactly what they did. They put radioactive material on a patch and the cancer disappeared.

Re:Post that makes science sound like magic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40394927)

Radiation is a highly effective type of poison.

Agh! That analogy is so broken that I don't even know where to start.

Willy Pete (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394343)

Radioactive White Phosphorus ? What could pssilbly go wrong?

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

Proof of concept (5, Informative)

chooks (71012) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Proof of concept (2)

istartedi (132515) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394409)

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.

Re:Proof of concept (3, Insightful)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#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:Proof of concept (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40394825)

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 radiation magically causes specific changes resulting in malignant cancers is stupid beyond belief. Radiation is a *neutral* ionizing agent - chance it causes specific mutations is very small.

If you want to worry about specific mutations causing cancer, worry about the crap you are breathing and eating that has nothing to do with radiation. Chemicals we have everywhere (including sprayed on food) are much more potent carcinogens than low level radiation or a tiny spot-beta emitter patch.

If you want to talk about danger of P-32, that danger is to the people that administer it to patients. In comparison, they get much higher dose over the course of their jobs.

Re:Proof of concept (3, Insightful)

Turksarama (2666917) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394865)

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.

Re:Proof of concept (2)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395467)

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.

Re:Proof of concept (2)

Turksarama (2666917) | more than 2 years ago | (#40396335)

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.

Re:Proof of concept (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395153)

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.

Re:Proof of concept (2)

TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395363)

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.

Re:Proof of concept (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40395819)

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, that's no longer an option. So, for me, anything that can put off the large grafts by micromanaging the BCCs is good until they come up with a "cure" :-)

Re:Proof of concept (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#40400285)

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.

How do they test for presence of cancer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40394431)

Hopefully not through radiography or anything like that...

Now... (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Put the patch on Github (1)

oiron (697563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394589)

...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...

So.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394649)

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?

Re:So.... (1)

heathen_01 (1191043) | more than 2 years ago | (#40396787)

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

Re:So.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397855)

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.

Re:So.... (1)

heathen_01 (1191043) | more than 2 years ago | (#40493333)

The cancer is/was just a symptom.

I'll stick with out-patient surgery. (1)

fuego451 (958976) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394715)

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.

Huh... Little late (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394773)

Patch Tuesday was last week.

Cancer free? (1)

hey_popey (1285712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40394987)

I thought you had to wait several years, not months before declaring the cancer cured!

Standard Treatment (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395097)

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?

Re:Standard Treatment (1)

TrekkieGod (627867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397007)

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.

Bug-Free Body(TM). (1)

nahduma (1710198) | more than 2 years ago | (#40395823)

I read 'patch' and my first reaction was: cyborgs? already? Wow! Although radioactive pellets on a band-aid is pretty cool, still... sigh.

Where do I merge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40396147)

At first I thought they released a patch that fixed cancer. Then I realized...

this is illegal (1)

lkcl (517947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40396311)

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.

Re:this is illegal (2)

Turksarama (2666917) | more than 2 years ago | (#40396489)

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.

well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40396435)

It seems a patch with hempoil works wonders on skin cancer as well.

Article rewritten in Reality language: (1)

DirkDaring (91233) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397541)

"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."

ah the wonders of science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40398785)

rubbing radioactive material on skin cancer - what could *possibly* go wrong! ;)

Another "Slashdot-accurate" headline (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#40399179)

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.

Re:Another "Slashdot-accurate" headline (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#40399197)

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.

Topically Applying Cannabis Oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40404765)

There is enough anecdotal evidence (see YouTube) that topically applying essential Cannabis oil ("Hash Oil") has reduced skin cancers, with some claims of a complete cure of such cancers, to warrant seriously researching the claims.
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