New topical treatment trial offers hope to organ transplant recipients

A new clinical trial is exploring whether a simple topical cream applied to the face can reduce incidences of skin cancer in organ transplant recipients; a group that’s up to 65 times more likely to develop skin cancer than the general public [1].

The SiroSkin trial, coordinated by Melanoma and Skin Cancer Trials Ltd., is investigating whether topical Sirolimus can reduce the number of facial squamous cell carcinomas in patients who have undergone an organ transplant.

In Australia, the high incidence of common skin cancers such as basal and squamous cell carcinomas, particularly on the head and neck, can translate into numerous skin cancers for solid organ transplant recipients. As these individuals are considered high risk, existing treatments to stop the onset of new cancers are not implemented.

As a result, recipients must rely on excision, with some undergoing hundreds of surgeries in their lifetime. Without other treatment options available for these high-risk patients, their skin cancers can metastasise and lead to death.

SiroSkin’s Chief Investigator and head of The University of Queensland’s Experimental Dermatology Group, Professor Kiarash Khosrotehrani, says the trial could have dramatic implications for patients and healthcare systems around the world.

“In Australia, there are more than 12,000 solid organ transplant recipients, with around 1,600 new transplants occurring annually. As a result of the immunosuppressive medications required to prevent organ rejection, this group are significantly overrepresented when it comes to incidence of skin cancers. Furthermore, current patient management does not prevent new or additional skin cancers from occurring,” Professor Khosrotehrani said.

“The SiroSkin trial could cause a paradigm shift in how we treat these people and dramatically improve the long-term outcomes for these patients, in terms of both quality of life and life expectancy. Reducing the dependency on surgical excisions in favour of topical treatment will also free up healthcare resources and translate into cost savings within healthcare systems, globally.

“The trial is based on clinical experience and a pilot feasibility and safety trial that has been conducted over the past two years. Topical Sirolimus has also been used safely on the face of adult and paediatric patients for other indications for many months without major side effects, so we’re eager to see the results of this significant trial.”

The SiroSkin trial aims to enrol 150 participants from all major organ transplantation centres in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.

Transplant Australia spokesperson and organ recipient, Matty Hempstalk, is encouraging those who are eligible to take part in the trial.

“Having been given a second chance thanks to an organ transplant, I’m eternally grateful for the miracle that is modern medicine. To now see this potentially life-saving treatment option being explored is incredible – particularly given how acutely aware we in the organ recipient community are of the threat of skin cancers,” Mr Hempstalk said.

“I’d strongly urge anyone who’s eligible to take part in this innovative trial to speak to their doctor about whether it’s right for them. By participating, you could contribute to the establishment of a new therapy that has minimal side effects but has tremendous opportunity to change and save lives,” he added.

This trial is supported by the Australian Government through the Medical Research Future Fund.

Click for more information on the SiroSkin trial.

[1] Skin Cancer Risks in Transplant Recipients: Know the Facts