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Skin Cancer Treatment Launches For Kiwi Summer

Skin Cancer Treatment Launches For Kiwi Summer

The cream that has recently been authorised for use in New Zealand for treating certain skin cancers and pre--cancers is being officially launched in Auckland tonight (3 November), just in time for National SunSmart Week and summer.

Dr Stephen Shumack, dermatologist at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, and Dr David Scollay, an Auckland--based specialist dermatologist, will present on Aldara (imiquimod 5%) -- the self--applied prescription cream that offers an alternative to surgery and other procedures.

The launch meeting is a forum for New Zealand's medical professionals to discuss the benefits of Aldara as a treatment for superficial basal cell carcinoma (sBCC) and pre--cancerous sun spots (actinic/solar keratosis -- AK), following its successful clinical trials and approval.

Dr Shumack says he is pleased there is another form of therapy doctors can offer patients with these most common types of skin cancer -- a treatment which is well tolerated and achieves excellent cosmetic results.

"I'm delighted to be presenting at the Aldara launch meeting and sharing the benefits of the treatment with other health professionals," says Dr Shumack. "Aldara is a unique topical cream in that it stimulates the body's own immune system to recognise and eliminate only the affected skin cells, which means it works without harming a patient's healthy skin."

Dr Scollay agrees, saying Aldara is likely to become a preferred treatment option for many skin cancer patients because it is non--invasive and can be self--applied in the privacy of their home.

"With summer coming, this meeting is important for discussing the range of treatments available for superficial skin cancer or pre--cancerous sun spots, because it's the time of year when people are likely to be most conscious of their skin's condition and are hopefully seeking advice on anything that looks unusual," says Dr Scollay.

SunSmart Week (9--15 November 2004), run by the Cancer Society of New Zealand, aims to promote sun awareness and safety prior to summer, when Kiwis are most at risk of damaging their skin.

The Cancer Society estimates there are up to 65,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer occurring annually in New Zealand, with the most common being basal cell carcinoma.

Aldara has been used as a self--applied treatment for anogenital warts in New Zealand since 1998 and is currently not funded by PHARMAC.


Aldara Clinical Trials In two controlled clinical trials, 364 patients with sBCC were treated with Aldara or placebo for six weeks. The trials showed that there was a clearance rate of up to 82 percent for patients treated with Aldara cream, compared to only three percent with the placebo1.

In these studies, the most frequently reported adverse reactions were local skin reactions, including flaking/scaling, induration, oedema, erythema, scabbing/crusting, erosion, and itching and burning at the application site. These local skin reactions generally decrease in intensity or resolve after cessation of Aldara Cream therapy. Overall, only two percent of patients discontinued therapy due to local skin/application-site reactions.

For actinic keratosis, 436 patients with multiple lesions were treated with Aldara or placebo for 16 weeks. While 45 percent of the patients treated with Aldara cream achieved complete clearance of all lesions, only three percent in the placebo group showed signs of clearance. Moreover, most patients experienced clearance of 75 percent of the skin lesions in the treated area2.

The most frequently reported adverse reactions were local skin reactions, including erythema, flaking/scaling/dryness, scabbing/crusting, oedema, erosion/ulceration, weeping/exudates, and itching/ burning at the application site. Only 2 percent of patients reported pain at the lesion site. While 16% of patients had a rest period during treatment, only 2 percent discontinued treatment due to local skin or application--site reactions.

About Superficial Basal Cell Carcinoma

According to the New Zealand Cancer Society3, up to 65,000 new cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer occur in NZ each year. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) affects an estimated 45,000 New Zealanders each year, and there are four types of BCC comprised of superficial, nodular, pigmented, ulcerating or sclerosing types.

Individuals with fair skin, blond or red hair and blue or green eyes, and those living in sunny climates are at the greatest risk for developing sBCC. Usually, sBCC develops on sun--exposed areas of the body. Superficial BCC can appear as red, finely wrinkled, scaly patches that occasionally have a fine, pearly border.

Common treatments for sBCC include surgical excision, cryosurgery (freezing), curettage (scraping) and electrodesiccation (burning).

About Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis appears as rough, red, scaly patches, or crusts on the skin. AK lesions usually measure less than 6 mm in diameter and more than 80 percent of lesions occur on the upper limbs, head and neck. Individuals with fair skin, light hair and light--colored eyes are at greatest risk for AK. Because AK is caused by cumulative sun exposure, it can take years to develop. The condition usually appears first in older people, although cases are becoming more common in people in their 40s.

Common AK treatments include cryotherapy (freezing), excisional surgery, electrodesiccation (burning) and curettage, lasers, topical chemotherapy and photodynamic therapy.

About 3M 3M is a diversified, international company based in St Paul, Minnesota, with healthcare businesses consisting of more than 10,000 pharmaceutical, medical, surgical, consumer and home healthcare, and dental products. 3M is committed to supplying reliable products and services that make a difference in the practice, delivery and outcomes of healthcare. TM trademark AldaraTM is manufactured by 3M Health Care in Loughborough, United Kingdom. For further information about 3M Pharmaceuticals, please visit

1Geisse J. et al. Imiquimod 5% cream for the treatment of superficial basal cell carcinoma: Results from two phase III, randomized, vehicle--controlled studies. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004;50:722--33. 2Lebwohl M. Imiquimod 5% cream for the treatment of actinic keratosis: Results from two phase III, randomised, double--blind, parallel group, vehicle controlled trials. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004; 50: 714--721. 3O'Dea, D. The Costs of Skin Cancer to New Zealand -- A report to The Cancer Society of New Zealand and The Health Sponsorship Council. 2000.

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