WEDNESDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- A newly approved gel
appears effective in treating a condition called actinic keratosis,
which is a common precursor to squamous cell skin cancer, a new
Earlier topical treatments took weeks or even months to treat
the condition, but the new product -- Picato (ingenol mebutate) gel
-- can work in a matter of days, according to the report in the
March 15 issue of the
New England Journal of Medicine.
"There are a number of agents available to treat precancerous skin lesions," said study author Dr. Mark Lebwohl, a professor and chairman of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
"Most of the other ones are applied over a period of weeks to months and have a reaction that lasts for a long time, so it interferes with your life for a good period of time. This one is unique in that it is applied for only one to three days," he said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Picato for use on
actinic keratoses in January. The new study was funded by LEO
Pharma, the maker of Ingenol.
For the study, more than 900 people with actinic keratoses on
their face or scalp, or elsewhere on their body (trunk, arms or
legs) were randomly assigned to treatment with either Picato or an
The researchers found that when used on the face or scalp, the
gel cleared the condition nearly 43 percent of the time, compared
with nearly 4 percent for the placebo.
When used on the trunk or extremities, the gel was again more
effective than placebo -- about 34 percent for the gel versus
nearly 5 percent for the placebo, the study authors noted.
Local skin reactions such as redness and crustiness developed
within several days, but were gone quickly, and side effects were
mild to moderate and went away without any problem, according to
And because treatment takes less time, patients are more likely
to adhere to their treatment, said study co-author Dr. Neil
Swanson, director of dermatologic surgery at Oregon Health and
Science University in Portland.
"It is an option to treat these lesions, a good percentage of which will go on to evolve to skin cancer," Swanson said.
In addition to skin gels, doctors treat actinic keratosis in
other ways that include burning or scraping with an electric or
laser device, cutting the tumor out, or freezing the tumor in a
procedure called cryotherapy.
Commenting on the study treatment, Dr. Doris Day, a
dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that
"it is efficacious and it's good for patients who can't tolerate
However, Day said she would most likely use this gel in
combination with other methods to treat the condition.
"I don't think I would use it as monotherapy," she said. "I don't think it penetrates deeply into the skin. So I would mix this with my other treatments such as laser and cryotherapy."
Day stressed that it is important to treat actinic keratosis
before it becomes skin cancer.
To learn about actinic keratosis, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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