Phase 1 study of topical perillyl alcohol cream for chemoprevention of skin cancer

Nutr Cancer. 2008;60(3):325-30. doi: 10.1080/01635580701840391.


Perillyl alcohol (POH) is a natural product derived from plants such as cherry and lavendin. Previous studies have indicated that topical POH inhibits ultraviolet (UV) B-induced skin carcinogenesis in vivo, and it may be an effective chemopreventive agent for skin cancer. We performed a 1-mo, first-in-man, Phase 1 trial of topically administered POH cream in human subjects. Endpoints included safety and evaluation of any histopathological changes in skin after 1 mo use of POH cream. We randomized 25 subjects with normal, healthy skin with little or no sun damage and no history of skin cancer in a double-blind fashion to receive topical POH (0.76% wt/wt) on 1 forearm with placebo cream applied to the other forearm twice daily for 30 days. Subjects were monitored for toxicity, and a 4 mm punch biopsy in the treated area was performed at the end of study for histopathological evaluation. The topical cream was well tolerated. No serious cutaneous toxicities, systemic toxicities, or histopathological abnormalities were observed. A total of 8 subjects (32%) reported mild adverse events possibly or probably related to use of cream including reversible appearance of 1 to 2 small papules. However, there was no significant difference between lesions appearing on the POH treated forearm vs. the placebo-treated forearm.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Forearm
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monoterpenes / administration & dosage*
  • Monoterpenes / adverse effects
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Monoterpenes
  • perillyl alcohol