London: A new study conducted by scientists in Australia has revealed that a common weed can cure skin cancers.
The sap from a plant known as petty spurge or milkweed - found by roadsides and in woodland - can ``kill`` certain types of cancer cells when applied to the skin, a newspaper reported.
It works on non-melanoma skin cancers, which are triggered by sun damage. And, although not usually fatal, can be disfiguring without treatment.
The plant has been used for centuries as a traditional folk medicine to treat conditions such as warts, asthma and several types of cancer.
This is the first time the scientists team has carried out a clinical study of sap from Euphorbia peplus.
The study of 36 patients with a total of 48 non-melanoma lesions included basal cell carcinomas (BCC), squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) and intraepidermal carcinomas (IEC), a growth of cancerous cells confined to the outer layer of the skin.
Patients had failed to respond to conventional treatment including surgery, or they refused or were unsuitable for surgery because of their age.
The patients were treated once a day for three consecutive days by an oncologist using a cotton bud to apply enough of the E.peplus sap to cover the surface of each lesion.
After only one month 41 of the 48 cancers had completely gone.
Patients who had some of the lesions remaining were offered a second course of treatment.
After an average of 15 months following treatment, two thirds of the 48 skin cancer lesions were still showing a complete response.
Of the three types of skin cancer tested, the final outcome was a 75 percent complete response for IEC lesions, 57 percent for BCC and 50 per cent for SCC lesions.
Side-effects were low, with 43 percent of patients in no pain as a result of the treatment and only 14 per cent reporting moderate pain, and only one patient encountered severe short-term pain.
The findings will be released this week in the British Journal of Dermatology.