Cancer researchers at St. Luke’s University Health Network were impressed by the results: After injecting a patient’s cancerous tumors with an experimental medicine derived from a fuchsia-colored liquid from India, called Rose Bengal, the tumors simply shriveled up and flaked off.
In the Bengali region of India, Rose Bengal has long been used as an ingredient in the stain used in the forehead dot designating the marital status of women. Now researchers on this side of the planet are looking into its potential cancer-killing properties.
Dr. Gary Lu, an oncologist at St. Luke’s, is a principal investigator for a Provectus Biopharmaceuticals study in which Bethlehem resident, James McCandless, enrolled last year.
The fair-skinned 81-year-old McCandless has a troubling history with skin cancer and is being treated currently for stage 4 metastatic melanoma on his liver with the FDA-approved drug Keytruda. Skin cancer is responsible for more some 7,000 deaths each year in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.
After cancerous moles were found on his scalp, McCandless had three injections of the Rose Bengal derivative, also known as PV-10, over several months. Shortly after each injection, the moles shrank, dried out and flaked off, leaving slight scars in their place.
“They worked wonders,” says Violet, his wife, of the shots.
St. Luke’s reported on the PV-10 research at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago in early June. The results were described as promising, causing few side effects.
McCandless agrees and adds that the Keytruda infusions he receives at the SLUHN Cancer Center have reduced his liver tumors to mere “spots.” Though slightly fatigued by the treatments, and having lost some 20 pounds, he still visits his rural vacation home weekly and enjoys his morning walks or lifts weights daily, taking the inconveniences all in stride.
About St. Luke’s
Founded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) is a fully integrated, regional, non-profit network of more than 15,000 employees providing services at 10 hospitals and 300 outpatient sites. With annual net revenue greater than $2 billion, the Network’s service area includes 10 counties: Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, Monroe and Schuylkill counties in Pennsylvania and Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey. Dedicated to advancing medical education, St. Luke’s is the preeminent teaching hospital in central-eastern Pennsylvania. In partnership with Temple University, St. Luke’s created the Lehigh Valley’s first and only regional medical school campus. It also operates the nation’s longest continuously operating School of Nursing, established in 1884, and 28 fully accredited graduate medical educational programs with 226 residents and fellows. St. Luke’s is the only Lehigh Valley-based health care system with Medicare’s five- and four-star ratings (the highest) for quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction. St. Luke’s is both a Leapfrog Group and Healthgrades Top Hospital and a Newsweek World’s Best Hospital. In 2019, three of IBM Watson Health’s 100 Top Hospitals were St. Luke’s hospitals. St. Luke’s University Hospital has earned the 100 Top Major Teaching Hospital designation from IBM Watson Health seven times total and five years in a row. St. Luke’s has also been cited by IBM Watson Health as a 50 Top Cardiovascular Program. Utilizing the Epic electronic medical record (EMR) system for both inpatient and outpatient services, the Network is a multi-year recipient of the Most Wired award recognizing the breadth of the SLUHN’s information technology applications such as telehealth, online scheduling and online pricing information. St. Luke’s is also recognized as one of the state’s lowest cost providers.