Wearable device for melanoma treatment: Scientists develop a nanoneedle skin patch for this aggressive form of cancer

If a skin lesion shows a change in size, colour or shape or you notice any other symptoms like itching and crusting, it is best to consult a dermatologist at the earliest.

Myupchar June 17, 2020 12:05:22 IST
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Wearable device for melanoma treatment: Scientists develop a nanoneedle skin patch for this aggressive form of cancer

Melanomas are rare but aggressive skin cancers. They account for less than 5 percent of all skin cancer cases but have one of the highest mortality rates.

Since melanoma spreads quickly to nearby organs, the only way to deal with it is early diagnosis. If diagnosed at an early stage, there is a 99 percent improvement in the five-year survival rate of the patient. But if cancer spreads, even just to the nearby lymph nodes, the survival rate drops to 65 percent.

Traditionally, melanoma is treated through chemotherapy and radiation, both of which have their side effects. Add to it the recurrent nature of the melanoma and the side effects could worsen.

Now, a group of scientists at Purdue University, USA say that they have developed a nanoneedle skin patch that can deliver chemotherapy drugs in a non-invasive and gradual way to melanoma patients. If used, this can improve the treatment experience of patients.

The findings of the study have been published in the peer-reviewed journal ACS Nano.

The technology

The patch consists of a thin and flexible water-soluble film with attached silicon nanoneedles. The needles have tiny pores which are used to load the drug. The needles are sharp enough that when applied to the skin, they pierce the skin surface without causing much pain. The outer patch dissolves within a minute, however, the silicon needles gradually dissolve over the span of several months.

As the needles dissolve, they slowly deliver the drug to the patient’s skin, thus providing a long-lasting effect.

What is melanoma?

Melanoma usually begins in the melanocytes -- the skin cells that are responsible for producing the pigment melanin. Melanin is responsible for protecting the skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiations but excessive sun exposure may cause DNA damage in these cells and lead to cancer.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, USA, melanoma is difficult to diagnose since it may appear in various shapes and colours. About 30 percent of melanomas are found in moles while the other 70 percent of them are present in normal-looking skin.

Here are some of the warning signs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetrical skin lesions (any abnormal growth like a rash, lump or blister)
  • Moles that have different colours - light and dark or that changes colour from red, white and blue
  • Skin lesions with uneven borders

If a skin lesion shows a change in size, colour or shape or you notice any other symptoms like itching and crusting, it is best to consult a dermatologist at the earliest.

For more information, read our article on Skin Cancer.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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