A research team from Australia has developed a cream that can mimic a cancer killing virus and can treat the most deadly form of skin cancers.

Researchers from RMIT University, Melbourne, have created a peptide that mimics a melanoma killing virus, a discovery that can someday lead to a cream that can treat skin cancer.

Melanoma is best cured in its earliest stages, says Medline Plus. When melanoma is left untreated, the cancer cells move down from the skin and spread to other parts of the body, making treatment difficult. A cream designed to stop melanoma before it spreads and without surgery can save many lives.

"Currently the only effective treatment for early stage melanoma is surgery to cut out the tumour and healthy skin surrounding the affected mole," said Dr. Taghrid Istivan, lead author of the study, "the peptide we have developed is toxic to melanoma cells but leaves normal skin cells unaffected,"

The peptide, or a short chain of amino acids, imitates the proteins of the myxoma virus. Previous research has shown that the virus is toxic to cancer cells. "A virus protein is big, expensive to synthesize and has inherent risks when used in medical treatments, because all viruses can mutate," Istivan said.

"By synthesizing a small peptide that mimics the action of a protein, we can offer a stable, safe, targeted and cost-effective alternative," Istivan added. The peptide was tested on human cancer cells and normal cells.

According to estimates from National Cancer Institute, more than 76,000 new cases will be reported this year and almost more than 9,000 people will die from the cancer in the U.S. Melanoma occurs as a mole on the skin but can occur in the eye and intestines.

"With further work, including clinical trials, we hope our research could lead to the development of a cream to painlessly and efficiently treat early stage melanoma," Istivan said.