Scientists in Scotland have come up with a revolutionary way of treating common skin cancers.
They have developed a portable light source, a light-emitting “sticking plaster”, powered by a small battery pack, could allow patients to be treated in GP surgeries or at home.
At present skin cancer treatment can involve the surgical removal of lesions, which often leaves scarring and the risk of infection or photodynamic therapy treatment (PDT).
This latest high tech idea is an adaptation of PDT already available to skin cancer patients, where the affected area of skin is covered with a light- sensitive anti-cancer cream, which is activated by controlled exposure to a light source.
This involves large, cumbersome and intense light sources in hospital, involving the patient having to sit still for several hours.
The experts, Professor Ifor Samuel from St Andrews University and Professor James Ferguson from Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital, hope to market their new invention and say it is a low-cost, portable and convenient method of treatment.
The metallic plaster contains an organic light-emitting diode and light is emitted when a low voltage electric current passes through it.
Professor Ferguson, the head of the photobiology unit at Ninewells Hospital, says initial pilot trials have already shown its effectiveness and patients are now requesting this treatment over conventional methods.
Professor Samuel, says the compact light source can be worn by the patient in a similar way to a sticking plaster, while the battery is carried like an iPod.
The “sticking plaster” treatment is only suitable for less serious non-melanoma cancers near the surface of the skin.
Other more dangerous skin cancers must be treated with surgery, radiotherapy and sometimes chemotherapy.
The researchers say the technology could also be used for cosmetic anti-ageing treatments, and to treat conditions such as acne.