Chinese researchers report breakthrough in fight against skin cancer

Chinese researchers report that chemical compound can stem growth of melanoma

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 4:04am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 4:04am

Researchers from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are reporting promising results in using a chemical compound to treat skin cancer and say it could eventually be used in sun cream to prevent the deadly condition.

Laboratory trials by scholars from Baptist University, University of Macau and Kaohsiung Medical University have found that injections of the compound, rhodium (III) metal complex, can inhibit the development of skin cancer.

The team said they were the first in the world to discover and prove the function of the metal complex in treating skin cancer.

Researchers treated five mice with melanoma, one of the most aggressive and dangerous skin cancers, with an injection of the metal complex four times a week for 35 days last year.

They found the compound could block the activity of a protein named STAT3 that played an important role in the development of many cancers, including skin cancer, Dr Edmond Ma Dik-lung, assistant professor at Baptist University's department of chemistry, said.

Compared to a control group that had the cancer but were not treated, the mice given Rhodium (III) saw a significant slowing in the growth of the tumour.

At the end of the 35-day trial, the treated tumours were on average 60 per cent lighter and smaller than those of the control group.

"If we can apply the complex to sun cream, we may be able to make a cosmetics product to prevent skin cancer by not only blocking UV rays but also stopping the dimerisation of STAT3," Ma's Taiwan teammate, Dr Wang Hui-min, said.

Dimerisation is a process by which two simple molecules merge to form a compound.