Scientists at Purdue University are reporting a skin patch that can deliver chemotherapy into melanoma tumors in an effective, convenient, and painless way. This may be an important development, as currently chemotherapy delivery options are limited and result in systemic exposure in the whole body and/or poor effectiveness.
Previous attempts at chemotherapy delivery via a patch required the use of large needles, which themselves dissolved way too fast once inside the skin to maintain continuous drug delivery. “We developed a novel wearable patch with fully miniaturized needles, enabling unobtrusive drug delivery through the skin for the management of skin cancers,” said Chi Hwan Lee, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering at Purdue in a press release. “Uniquely, this patch is fully dissolvable by body fluids in a programmable manner such that the patch substrate is dissolved within one minute after the introduction of needles into the skin, followed by gradual dissolution of the silicon needles inside the tissues within several months.”
The silicon needles on the new patch are so small that they could be called nanoneedles, and yet they have engineered angular tips, to help them penetrate into the skin, and tiny holes within which chemo agents can be loaded. The nanoneedles are attached to a water soluble film, which dissolves within a minute after application of the patch and all that’s left are the nanoneedles within the skin. Since the silicon nanoneedles take time to break up within the body, they have the time to deliver their therapeutic payload before dissolving.
So far, this is all a matter of laboratory work and a good deal of translational medical research will be required before such technology finds its space in the treatment of melanoma.