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QIMR hails new sun spot gel now available in Australia

The Queensland Institute of Medical Research has congratulated LEO Pharma on the Australian release of a new gel to treat sun spots.

QIMR Director, Professor Frank Gannon, said the Institute’s researchers were important contributors to the isolation and development of the active ingredient in Picato® gel.

“This is an extraordinary achievement, one of the few new Australian-developed drugs to make it to market,” Professor Gannon said.

“It is a stunning example of the power of scientific collaboration leading to real benefits for everyday Australians. We are proud to have been a key part of the process.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has just 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 treatment has also been approved by the FDA for use in the USA.

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.

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

In 1997 he approached QIMR 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 anti-cancer treatment. He’s left a lasting legacy of jobs and expertise, as well as providing a new treatment for sun spots.” Professor 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. It’s very rare for scientists to gain such extensive new drug commercialisation experience in Australia.

“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.”


Solar keratoses facts:

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.