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Dissolving 'nanoneedle' patch could gradually release skin cancer drugs

Professional Engineering

The wearable skin patch with fully miniaturised silicon needles could be used in the treatment of skin cancers (Credit: Purdue University/ Chi Hwan Lee)
The wearable skin patch with fully miniaturised silicon needles could be used in the treatment of skin cancers (Credit: Purdue University/ Chi Hwan Lee)

A new wearable patch that gradually dissolves into the body could help prevent uncomfortable or painful side effects associated with other skin cancer treatments, its creators have said.

Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana created the patch, aimed at people with melanoma.

Conventional therapies, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, suffer from the toxicity and side effects of repeated treatments due to the aggressive and recurrent nature of melanoma cells.

Less invasive topical chemotherapies have emerged as alternatives, but the Purdue team said their widespread use has been hindered by the painful size of microneedles and rapid dissolving of polymers used in the treatments.

“We developed a novel wearable patch with fully miniaturised 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.

“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 gradual slow dissolution of the silicon ‘nanoneedles’ allows for long-lasting and sustainable delivery of cancer therapeutics, said Lee.

“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 penetration into the skin in a painless and minimally invasive manner,” he said.

The Purdue team developed a novel design of bioresorbable silicon nanoneedles on a thin, flexible and water-soluble medical film. The film serves as a temporary holder that can conform to the curved surface of the skin during the insertion of the nanoneedles, followed by rapid, complete dissolution within a minute.

The surface of the nanoneedles is configured with nanoscale pores, and reportedly provides a large drug loading capacity comparable to conventional microneedles.

Lee said the nanoneedles could deliver chemotherapeutic drugs to target melanoma sites in a sustainable manner. The silicon nanoneedles are biocompatible and dissolvable in tissue fluids, so can be completely resorbed in the body over months without harm.

The research was published in ACS Nano.

This work was supported by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

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