Doctors were successful in the implementation of a new form of skin cancer treatment; a patch that can be worn on the skin. Many people don’t realize that human skin is actually an organ, and is capable of ‘breathing’ and absorption. The patch contained a radioactive isotope or radionuclide, phosphorus-32.
In the study, subjects were exposed to the radionuclide patch for three hours, thrice during one week. 80% of the subjects tested had unsightly tumors from their face completely eliminated via this easy radiation treatment. This breakthrough could provide an amazing alternative to expensive and difficult surgery or radiotherapy.
“(This) opens a new dimension in the field of therapeutic nuclear medicine and dermatology.” said Dr. Priyanka Gupta, lead author of the study.
Of the numerous types of different cancers that humans can suffer from, the one treated in this study, basal cell carcinoma, is one of the most common. It is said that one in five Americans will be diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma in their lifetime. Despite being one of the least fatal types of cancer we have, basal cell carcinoma can be very cumbersome, as well as an eyesore.
In the study, ten patients between the ages of 32 and 74 were treated with the P-32 patch for tumors on their face. The treatments occurred during one week for three hours on day one, four and seven. A biopsy was conducted three months, six months and three years later. Not only were healthy areas of the skin not affected, but eight out of the ten patients showed no signs of their original facial skin cancer after three years.
In this particular example, the benefits are more of convenience than of saving lives. Still, this field of nuclear medicine has shown great promise and thus warrants more research.
What other diseases could radionuclides be used to treat? One can’t help but imagine a future where we harvest the power of radioactive isotopes to target the most fatal types of cancer such as lung, breast and leukemia.
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