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Common weed proves a remedy for sunspots

An 1998 research collaboration between QIMR researchers and Dr  Jim Aylward, founder of Peplin, has led to a fruitful outcome for people suffering from solar keratosis, or sunspots – a condition which commonly precedes skin cancer.

Peplin Ltd (now a wholly owned subsidiary of LEO Pharma A/S) has just released the positive results of their Australian and USA Phase III trial for a topical gel that has proven effective for treating sunspots after just two days of application. Different areas of the body were treated during the trial, including the face, neck, arms, back of the hands and chest.

The active ingredient in the gel, ingenol mebutate or PEP005, was originally isolated from the common petty spurge, Euphorbia peplus, in a collaboration between visiting scientist Dr Jim Aylward and Professor Peter Parson’s Drug Discovery Laboratory at QIMR.

Professor Parsons says “Development of this drug has been a very interesting project in basic science for the Institute and has led to further research into the drug target protein kinase C.”

Dr Aylward’s interest in the weed was sparked by his own mother’s belief in the weed as a home remedy for skin problems and the medicinal value of the plant’s milky sap had been for acknowledged for centuries in European folklore. It is said to have been introduced into Australia by European settlers in the early 1800s for that very reason.

The product is a real coup for Queensland with the original research and development conducted here at QIMR, the manufacturing site now in Southport, the raw materials sourced from Queensland farmers and the majority of employees  based in Peplin’s Brisbane office.

The Institute is extremely proud to have been part of the development process which will improve treatment options for skin keratosis, reduce lengthy treatment times, pain and irritation.

Euphorbia peplus, or Radium weed (Photo: Thanks to the International Environmental Weed Foundation)