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Treatment for sun spots – gel for solar keratoses


The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved Picato® gel as a topical treatment for solar keratoses, or sunspots, a precursor to the second most common type of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma.

The gel is applied once a day for two or three days, depending on the area of the body treated. It is only available on prescription from GPs and dermatologists and is not available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

QIMR Berghofer researchers were important contributors to the isolation and development of the active ingredient in Picato® gel.

Dr Jim Aylward first explored the potential of Euphorbia peplus, the plant commonly known as radium weed.

In 1997 he approached QIMR Berghofer scientists, including Professor Peter Parsons and Professor Andreas Suhrbier, to further isolate the active ingredient – ingenol mebutate – and explore its potential and how it could work as a treatment.

“Jim Aylward had the drive and intelligence to develop a new anticancer treatment. He’s left a lasting legacy of jobs and expertise, as well as providing a new treatment for sun
spots.” QIMR Berghofer’s Director, Professor Frank Gannon said.

“QIMR scientists have benefitted from participating in the processes involved in the long road from concept through to regulatory approval of a drug. And, of course, hundreds of thousands of Australians stand to benefit from the product, which has the potential to reduce lengthy treatment times, pain and irritation.”

Picato® is not available from QIMR Berghofer, please contact your GP or dermatologist for further information.

Solar keratoses

  • Sun spots often appear as red scaly lesions on skin that has been frequently exposed to the sun.
  • Sixty-five per cent of squamous cell carcinomas arise from lesions previously diagnosed as sun spots.
  • Almost half a million new cases of non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed in Australia each year.
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