‘Sticking plaster’ cure for skin cancer

Monday 30 October 2006

A new light-emitting ‘sticking plaster’, which will revolutionise the treatment of skin cancer, has been developed by researchers at the University of St Andrews and Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.

The new device, which builds on established photodynamic therapy treatment (PDT) methods, not only reduces pain but has the potential to be used by patients in their own home.

The breakthrough, a portable lightweight light source powered by a pocket-sized battery, is the brainchild of St Andrews’ physicist Professor Ifor Samuel, and dermatology consultant Professor James Ferguson, head of the photobiology unit at Ninewells Hospital Dundee.

The pair teamed up four years ago to combine their expertise in photo-physics and photodynamic therapy to create a new way of treating skin cancer. The result is a ‘light bandage’ which contains its own light source and is so portable that patients can go about their daily business while under treatment.

Professor Samuel said: “By adapting the latest technology to an existing treatment method, we have developed a compact light source for treating common skin cancers. It can be worn by the patient in a similar way to a sticking plaster, while the battery is carried like an iPod.”

The light is generated by an organic light-emitting diode, (OLED) and is a spin-off of Professor Samuel’s work on advanced displays. “It’s very exciting to be have developed a new technology that helps treat skin cancer patients,” he said.

Professor Ferguson said: “This new device will have a major impact on the treatment of skin cancers. The light-emitting patch is a low- cost, portable and convenient method of treatment. Our initial pilot trials have already shown its effectiveness and we find patients requesting this treatment over conventional methods.”

The new approach is much more convenient and comfortable than conventional methods as lower light levels are used (reducing pain), and the patient can move around during treatment. The introduction of this product will mean that more patients can be treated, and opens up the possibility of treatment at GPs surgeries or at home.

The patented technology was developed with support from Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept funding and has been licensed to Lumicure Ltd, which is currently in discussions with venture capitalists to raise equity funds to commercialise the product.

Skin cancer is a major and rapidly growing problem in the UK. It is estimated that around ten per cent of Scotland’s population or half-a- million people will suffer from the disease at some point in their lifetimes.

In addition to the treatment of skin cancers, the researchers believe that the technology could also be used in the cosmetic industry, for anti-aging treatments or for conditions such as acne.



The researchers are available for interview:

Professor Samuel, tel 01334 463114 or email [email protected]

Professor Ferguson tel 01382 632240 or email [email protected]

** About Skin Cancer: The incidence of skin cancer is growing rapidly and now affects 15% of the UK population, 40% of the American, and 75% of the Australian populations during their lifetimes. This equates to ~ 220m people. Current skin cancer treatment can involve surgical removal of the lesion, with associated scarring and risk of infection. Alternatively, light in combination with a suitable pharmaceutical cream can be used, a procedure called photodynamic therapy (PDT). However, current PDT involves large, cumbersome and intense light sources, and the patient must sit or lie still under them for several hours during treatment in a hospital cubicle.

About PDT: Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a two-step process involving the application of a photosensitive drug followed by controlled exposure to a selective light source which activates the drug and destroys the diseased cells. PDT treatment avoids the scarring associated with surgical removal of the tumour and the need for an in-patient hospital stay. PDT is now the preferred treatment for several forms of skin cancer including; Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), Actinic (solar) keratosis (AK) and Bowens disease (squamous carcinoma in situ). All of the target indications occur predominantly in the over sixty age group and are currently treated by dermatologists.

About OLEDs: Certain organic semiconductor materials are capable of emitting light when they are subjected to an applied electric field. The simplest configuration of an organic light- emitting device consists of a thin film of organic material sandwiched between two electrical contacts. This type of device is known as an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED). OLED devices posses many benefits over existing technologies; they emit light uniformly over large surface areas whilst operating at low voltages using simple batteries, they are cheap to process especially in mass production, they are flat or even flexible and are lightweight and durable.

About Lumicure: Lumicure is a spin-out company from the University of St Andrews and NHS Tayside. Lumicure has an exclusive license to the technology developed for the “sticking plaster¿ device. The company is currently in discussion with venture capitalists regarding funding to bring the product to market. For information contact [email protected]



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Ref: sticking plaster 271006.doc View the latest University press releases at http://www.st- andrews.ac.uk

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