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A Wearable Patch To Treat Skin Cancer

Natan Rosenfeld Natan Rosenfeld December 19, 2021
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

Skin patches have been around for quite some time. They’re mostly used to deliver medication to patients in a controlled manner. But skin patches haven’t made their way to the field of cancer medicine–until now. Researchers at Purdue University say that they’ve developed an innovative wearable patch that will be just as effective as standard skin cancer treatments and doesn’t come with the side effects that other treatments bring. The tech is still in development, but so far, it looks like a possible game-changer.

 

The future of skin cancer treatment?

 

Some alternatives to conventional skin cancer treatments exist, but they’re painful and not as effective. The Purdue researchers think they’ve managed to solve both the pain and effectiveness issues with their new technology that reduces the entirety of melanoma treatment to a simple wearable patch.

 

“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, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering at Purdue University.  “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.”

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Skin Cancer - Melanoma vs. Non-Melanoma

Skin Cancer - Melanoma vs. Non-Melanoma

Delivery of cancer drugs through nanoneedles

 

When applied to the skin, the patch delivers cancer medication through silicon nanoneedles that are absorbed into the body over the course of a few months. When developing the patch, the researchers placed the needles on a thin, water-soluble medical film, which can also be dissolved and absorbed by the skin into the body. 

 

“The uniqueness of our technology arises from the fact that we used extremely small but long-lasting silicon nanoneedles with sharpened angular tips that are easy for their penetration into the skin in a painless and minimally invasive manner,” Lee said.

 

The needles used in the patch contain nanoscale pores to provide a “large drug loading capacity,” in a manner comparable to traditional microneedles, according to the researchers. When the patch is applied to the melanoma site, the needles then release the chemotherapy drug of choice into the skin. After delivering the drugs, the needles automatically dissolve into the patient’s tissue fluid. Lee came up with the idea after his daughter expressed her fear of needles when talking about vaccinations. 

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Skin Cancer - New Medical Innovations

Skin Cancer - New Medical Innovations

Promising, but not quite there yet

 

The technology is still in development, however. It’s not known when it will make it to the market, but Lee and his team recently managed to secure a patent for it, together with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. The researchers are currently looking for new partners to continue making improvements to the patch. 

 

To sum up

 

A team of Purdue University researchers, aware of the frustrating side effects of conventional skin cancer treatments, decided to develop an alternative: a wearable patch that delivers medication through nanoneedles that eventually dissolve into the skin. The wearable patch apparently has no side effects and is reportedly as effective as traditional chemotherapy. The new technology, although still in development, could one day replace standard melanoma therapies. 

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