Researchers at Purdue University have developed a novel patch drug-delivery system for managing melanoma. This new treatment option is reported to have overall fewer adverse drug reactions and less severe toxic side effects than those associated with traditional melanoma treatments. In an article published in ACS Nano in May, the innovators describe the design of this continuous, unobstructed drug delivery involving a system of miniaturized, embedded needles.

The Purdue University research team’s patch delivery system offers patients a less toxic chemotherapeutic intervention. Traditional therapy used to combat the aggressive and recurrent nature of melanoma commonly results in toxic, intolerable side effects, and less noxious alternatives utilizing polymeric microneedles have not been able to demonstrate the prolonged drug exposure necessary to provide adequate treatment. That is, until now.

Senior author Chi Hwan Lee, a Purdue University assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, and colleagues have developed a patch that provides continuous, unobstructed drug delivery through a system that is embedded with fully miniaturized needles, providing an enhanced drug administration as well as a better treatment experience for the patient.

Dr. Lee stated, “We developed a novel wearable patch with fully miniaturized needles, enabling unobtrusive drug delivery through the skin for the management of skin cancers." He added, “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 authors reported that the miniaturized bioresorbable porous-silicon (p-SI) needles are less bulky, are flexible, and can interface with irregular surfaces commonly seen with living tissues (such as the cornea when used for ocular melanoma). The previous limitation of inadequate drug delivery is compensated for with the p-SI microneedles, which feature covalently linked drug cargos that provide comparable dosing to the alternative, traditional polymeric needles. 

The p-Si needles are built on a water-soluble film as a temporary flexible holder that can be intimately interfaced with the pliable and imperfect surface of living tissues. The interface is established after complete dissolution with saline solution within approximately 60 seconds and remains embedded inside tissues, undergoing gradual degradation while allowing sustained drug delivery. The authors noted that this system can be adjusted for use for other conditions including potentially minimally invasive and painless injection of drug cargos through the cornea for the management of ocular melanomas.

“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,” Dr. Lee said. According to Science Daily, Dr. Lee’s motivation for developing this delivery system was based on his own daughter’s fear of needles.

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