A new topical therapy can reduce the skin effects of radiation exposure in both animal and human models, according to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
The study, “A Topical Mitochondria-Targeted Redox Cycling Nitroxide Mitigates Oxidative Stress Induced Skin Damage,” may help prevent skin damage in a large number of cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy to treat their disease.
The skin is the largest human organ, providing the first line of defense against any external insult. However, radiation exposure, either through artificial or natural ultraviolet (UV) light, radiation therapy, or more rarely, from nuclear accidents, may cause severe skin damage.
This occurs due to the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) upon radiation exposure, which leads to severe oxidative damage and inflammation, contributing to late tissue injury.
In an attempt to reduce the radiation poisoning caused by an accident at a nuclear power facility, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that a topical therapy could benefit the nearly 1 million cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy to the skin annually in the U.S., including patients with breast, and head and neck cancers.
“During the course of radiation therapy, patients can develop irritating and painful skin burns that can lead to dangerous infections and diminished quality of life,” Louis Falo, MD, chairman of the Department of Dermatology at the Pitt School of Medicine and corresponding author for the study, said in a press release. “Sometimes the burns are so severe that patients must stop their treatment regimen. Our results show that topical treatment with this therapeutic agent prevents skin damage at the source,” Falo said.
The molecule, named JP4-039, was developed in the lab of Peter Wipe, PhD, by Wipf’s former student, Joshua Pierce, PhD, who now has his own lab at North Carolina State University. The researchers revealed that this molecule could halt the formation of ROS in the mitochondria, preventing inflammation and cell death.
“This provides for potentially improved treatment options for patients undergoing radiation therapy with the prospect for more simplified treatment regimens and reduced concern about quality of life post-treatment,” Wipf said.
The findings are expected to accelerate efforts to evaluate the therapy in clinical trials, and Falo is optimistic regarding the therapy’s performance because this preclinical study was performed in both mouse models and in human skin samples collected from cosmetic procedures.
The researchers are now studying if JP4-039 can be used to prevent skin damage caused by sun exposure, as well as normal skin changes caused by oxidative stress that happen as skin ages naturally.