Scientist Discovers Garden Weed that may help fight off Skin Cancer

Skin damage that can lead to cancer may be treatable by a fast acting gel created from the sap of a common garden weed. Picato gel is a treatment for actinic keratosis, which appears as red, rough patches of skin usually on the face, scalp, backs of hands and trunk of the body.

Long-term sun exposure or using sunbeds triggers the condition which affects two million people in the UK aged over 40. If left untreated, these patches are responsible for two thirds of cases of squamous cell carcinoma, a non-melanoma form of skin cancer.

Jason Hollinger (Flickr)
Creams already prescribed by doctors take up to three months to work, so many patients give up using them. Picato is applied once daily over two or three days and in clinical trials treatment reduced lesions by up to 83 per cent, with the results lasting at least a year.

The active ingredient in the gel comes from the sap of the petty spurge plant, which has the botanic name Euphorbia peplus. The plant sap has been used for many centuries as a medicine for sun damaged skin. In 1997 the active compound was identified by Dr. Jim Aylward, a scientist in Australia where the plant is now grown for medicinal use.

Image Credit: Jason Hollinger (Flickr)