A new medication which can be applied to the skin could help prevent organ transplant recipients from developing harmful skin cancers.
The world-first treatment being developed at The University of Queensland is the only drug of its type that could prevent the incidence of skin cancers for transplant patients.
Lead researcher from UQ’s Diamantina Institute Associate Professor James Wells said the treatment was shown in models to clear skin tumours that grow as a consequence of taking tacrolimus – a drug that transplant patients must take to suppress their immune systems to avoid organ rejection.
“It’s first-in-class, meaning there is no other drug that has been developed targeting the same mechanism,” Dr Wells said.
Organ transplant recipients are 100 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) than the general population, with patients developing multiple SCCs.
The current treatment includes invasive surgery or drugs with harmful side effects.
“This new potential therapy works by enabling the patient’s immune system to fight the skin cancer locally, without impacting the most commonly prescribed drug, tacrolimus, and its role in preventing rejection of transplanted organs,” Dr Wells said.
“Our goal is to provide the best possible outcome for the patient, which is the prevention of skin cancers while on immune-suppressing drugs.
“Such an outcome has the potential to be transformative for organ transplant patients trapped by the longterm need for immunosuppression resulting in the development of multiple skin cancers that require surgery and could be lethal.”