Tea tree oil may be used in future as a fast, safe, cheap and effective treatment for non-melanoma skin cancers, says a new research.
A three-year study at The University of Western Australia's Tea Tree Oil Research Group has found solid tumours grown under the skin in mice and treated with a tea tree oil formulation inhibits tumour growth and tumour regresses within a day of treatment.
Within three days, the tumours cannot be detected.
Sara Greay, of the University of Western Australia who conducted the study with Demelza Ireland, said further experiments indicated the anti-cancer effect of the tea tree oil formulation appeared to involve activation of the immune system.
"We are very excited about these results and are hoping to find funding for a small clinical trial of about 50 people with pre-cancerous lesions, with the aim of preventing the development of skin cancers," Greay said.
Unlike other clinically approved skin cancer chemotherapies, which have long treatment times of three to 16 weeks and can cause nausea and flu-like symptoms, the tea tree oil formulation only produces mild skin irritation which disappears within days of the treatment finishing.
"We believe the formulation is crucial to prevent the evaporation and increase the penetration of tea tree oil through the skin," Greay said in a university release.
Tea tree oil is a natural, renewable resource from Melaleuca alternifolia, a tree native to New South Wales.
Increased demand for the oil would strengthen the industry and, besides the medical benefits, would also benefit the rural communities based on the production of the oil.
These findings were published online in the Cancer Chemotherapy Pharmacology.