A report released on 29 June 2010 by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) has highlighted the positive role tea tree oil may play in the treatment of skin cancer.
Researchers from the University of Western Australia found that a topical formulation of tea tree oil significantly inhibited the growth of cancerous tumours in mice and also regressed the tumours during and after the treatment period. Only minor side effects were observed in the form of skin irritation which was temporary and cleared after a few days.
According to the report’s co-author, Dr Sara Greay from The University of Western Australia, the findings are significant as the tumours being studied are highly aggressive.
“We’ve known for a long time that tea tree oil has recognised health benefits, particularly its role in combating bacteria, fungi, and viruses,” Dr Greay said. “Although we and others have reported anti-cancer activity of tea tree oil against cells in vitro, no study has ever reported anti-tumour efficacy of tea tree oil in a preclinical cancer setting.”
“So what this new research tells us is that tea tree oil, in the right formulation may also play a role as a clinically effective topical treatment for skin cancer in humans. If topical TTO can slow down aggressive solid tumours grown under the skin in mice, then its potential to be effective against cancers that grow within the skin is enormous. The potential next step is a clinical trial to test TTO formulations on people with precancerous lesions, with the aim of preventing the development of skin cancer,” said Dr Greay.
Dr Roslyn Prinsley, General Manager of RIRDC’s New Rural Industries said that if that were the case, aside from the health benefits, it would be major step forward for Australia’s tea tree oil industry in terms of its profile and financial viability.