Dermatologist and researcher Professor Robin Marks said a 2-year study of the cream showed that it contained a chemical which helped the body's natural immune system fight superficial basal cell carcinomas.
"It's a new approach to cancer therapy...using the body's natural immune system and enhancing it as a way of controlling disease," Marks told Reuters by telephone from Melbourne.
Marks said the cream offers an alternative to painful and invasive skin cancer treatments such as burning, freezing or scraping the affected skin or by radiotherapy.
The cream used to treat viral and genital warts contains a drug registered in Australia as imiquimod and sold in the United States as Aldara.
ATTACKS CANCER CELLS
Marks said he began his research after he was approached by US diversified manufacturer Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co (3M), to see whether its Aldara cream had applications in the treatment of skin cancers.
Marks said his Melbourne-based Skin and Cancer Foundation found that the drug stimulates the body to produce the compound interferon alpha, which attacks the cancer cells.
"I think it's a breakthrough because we're stimulating the body's natural defense," he said.
Marks said the study by his independent foundation used the cream on 99 patients and tested its effectiveness when used over a variety of frequencies and time periods.
It was found to be most effective when applied daily for a six-week period. In that instance, 90% of patients reported the cancer had cleared completely.
Marks said the affected area of skin was removed surgically from each patient after the treatment and examined. No cancer cells were found in those who reported their cancers gone.
Marks said similar studies are still underway in North America and Europe.
While available worldwide for the treatment of warts, the cream would require new government approval in Australia before it could be used in the treatment of skin cancer, Marks said.