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Home » Dermatology » Finding an innovative approach to skin cancer care

Dr Saqib Jawaid Bashir

Consultant Dermatologist & Dermatological Surgeon, Lead Clinician for Skin Cancer, King’s College Hospital

Dr Nicola Mulholland FRCR FRCP MA MSc

Consultant Radiologist and Nuclear Medicine Physician, King’s College Hospital London

A non-invasive treatment for skin cancer could improve the patient experience and lead to enhanced quality of life.

Traditionally, people with non-melanoma skin cancer face several courses of outpatient treatments, including surgery or radiotherapy, with more vulnerable patients admitted to hospital overnight.

Now, a new trial of an innovative patient-friendly therapy will be held at King’s College Hospital in London as a step towards making it available in the NHS.

Non-surgical treatment

The paint-like treatment – Rhenium-SCT – uses the Rhenium-188 isotope that emits beta-radiation to target skin cancer. A special applicator enables clinicians to apply the compound to deliver this epidermal radio-isotope therapy to kill cancerous cells, usually in a single session and with little to no resulting scarring.

Dermatologist Dr Saqib Jawaid Bashir, lead clinician for skin cancer at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, says: “The aim is to provide patients with a non-surgical treatment for their cancer and also see multiple skin cancers treated in one visit.”

Painless therapy

The manufacturer, OncoBeta, is confident the painless therapy can effectively treat non-melanoma skin cancers, he adds, and this includes basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma which are common conditions.

Dr Bashir explains that sun-exposed patients can face multiple surgeries over consecutive years, with the anxieties of anaesthetic and stitch removal from wounds.

“Hopefully this treatment will provide these patients a way forward,” he says. “Compared to surgery, the advantages are that the patient does not have a procedure, or be anxious about anaesthetic injection, or aftercare.”

He said the NHS would benefit because there is less impact on resources and time of skilled personnel.

The aim is to provide patients with a non-surgical treatment for their cancer and also see multiple skin cancers treated in one visit.

Dr Saqib Jawaid Bashir

Radioactive particles

Dr Nicola Mulholland, clinical lead for nuclear medicine at King’s College Hospital, explains that people come into hospital as outpatients for the treatment and have the product painted on to the affected area.

Over a period usually between 30 minutes and three hours, the radioactive particles target the lesion and the patient can then go home.

The safety and effectiveness of the treatment will be further assessed under the EPIC Skin study at King’s College Hospital as part of a multi-centre study.

Availability of treatment

Rhenium-SCT has already been through clinical trials and is used in routine practice in other countries. It is expected that this Phase IV trial will also help with the introduction of the therapy into the UK healthcare system, initially for self-pay patients. It is hoped this will be by followed by reimbursement from health insurers and then be more widely available on the NHS.

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