How sticking plaster could beat scourge of skin cancer

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SKIN cancer victims are getting a revolutionary new treatment that will avoid scarring and reduce hospital treatment time.

Scientists have created a sticking plaster-type device which can be

worn by patients as they move around. The light-emitting Ambulight PDT also aims to make treatment more comfortable and avoids scarring.

In the new treatment, a special cream is applied to the skin and the 2in (5cm) wide device, which comes with a power source about the size of an iPod, is stuck on top.

After three hours the light switches on for around three hours, causing a photochemical reaction which works to kill the cancer, a process known as photodynamic therapy (PDT).

Previously the special light equipment was based in hospitals, meaning that patients would have to spend hours there for treatment. They would wait three hours while the cream took effect and then undergo 20 minutes of intense light therapy.

With the Ambulight, patients only need to spend a short amount of time in hospital while the cream is applied, and can then carry on with their daily routine.

Ifor Samuel, professor of physics at St Andrews University, developed the device with James Ferguson, professor of dermatology at Dundee University.

Professor Samuel said: "It is more comfortable for the patient as they can move around.

"It could speed up treatment because at present only a few places have the specialist equipment and they can only treat a limited number of people. This should make treatment much more widely available."

The device, produced by Ambicare Health Ltd, has been piloted at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee and will now be available to hospitals around the UK and abroad. It can be thrown away after each use.

About 50 people have so far been treated with it and scientists said feedback had been positive.

As the light therapy is delivered over three hours, it is gentler than the intense 20-minute burst given in hospital.

Professor Ferguson said: "It seems to be relatively pain-free compared to the more rapid therapy that is given in hospital over 20 minutes. It's a much simpler, more convenient and comfortable alternative."

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK.