Modern cancer drugs supercharge immune systems, target specific gene mutations and pack modified viruses into vaccines. One investigational treatment stands out for its simplicity.
Rose Bengal is a cheap industrial chemical that turns yarn and food bright red. Rose Bengal has been used as a diagnostic staining agent for some time. Some scientists are analyzing its potential to fight various forms of cancer.
Provectus Biopharmaceuticals Inc is at the forefront, testing a reformulated version of the industrial dye on melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Provectus Biopharmaceuticals Inc has reported promising results in a small melanoma study.
Rose Bengal’s potential was discovered by accident. The salt was first patented in 1882 as a wool dye and has been used for years as a diagnostic stain in tests for jaundice in newborns and to detect eye damage.
Researchers later discovered that Rose Bengal could be used as a sage photoreactive agent to use in an investigation of lasers against cancer.
The Rose Bengal solution appeared to work on its own to dissolve tumors when directly injected into them, it made the lasers obsolete.
In a study of 80 people with advanced melanoma, half of the patient who had all of their lesions injected were cancer free after an average of two months. A year later, 11% continued to show no signs of cancer.
Provectus Biopharmaceuticals Inc has also started a melanoma trial of the drug with Merck’s Keytruda, a treatment that works by helping the immune system fight cancer. Hopefully the combination will have a more pronounced effect on slowing disease than either treatment alone.
Although some doctors are encouraged by the research, government approval is years off and not guaranteed. The company must replicate its early results on a bigger scale. A U.S. FDA decision is not expected before 2019.
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