A new topical gel now available by prescription significantly decreases the amount of time needed to treat actinic keratosis, a skin condition that is a common precursor to skin cancer, according to a multi-center trial led by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The gel, called ingenol mebutate, is applied to the skin for just a few days, making it quicker and even more effective as current therapies require weeks to months to apply. The Phase III study results of the trial are published in the March 15, 2012 issue of the The New England Journal of Medicine.
Actinic keratoses are premalignant skin lesions very common in fair-skinned individuals who always burn and rarely tan. It is the most common precursor to sun-related squamous-cell carcinoma, the second most common type of skin cancer. Current topical medications to treat actinic keratosis often causes skin irritation and result in many patients not completing the full treatment regimen. Topical gels are used as an alternative treatment to cryosurgery, a method of freezing lesions using liquid nitrogen as the cooling solution, to destroy the precancerous skin lesions. Cryosurgery is the most common form of treatment, but is only practical in treating areas with single lesions, not multiple lesions.
"The shorter application period is what makes ingenol mebutate a breakthrough in the treatment of actinic keratosis," said Mark Lebwohl, MD, lead study author and Professor and Chair of the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "Many patients find it difficult to stick with the current regimen. The shorter period is a more effective option for patients who don't want a treatment that interferes with their everyday lives for weeks or even months."