Scientists from the University of North Carolina (UNC) and North Carolina State University have developed a melanin-enhanced cancer immunotherapy treatment that boosts a naturally occurring immune response against skin cancer cells in mice.
The immunotherapy technique can also be a vaccine and applied through a transdermal patch, which has been done in early experiments on mice, according to a UNC announcement.
“Melanin is a natural pigment that can efficiently transform absorbed sunlight energy into heat,” Zhen Gu, associate professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at UNC Chapel Hill and NC State and corresponding author of a paper in Science Immunology, said in the announcement. “We demonstrated that melanin, which is found at high levels in melanoma, can actually be used to help treat melanoma. We do this by shining near infrared light on a therapeutic skin patch, which promotes the systemic immune response that fights cancer.”
Scientists used lysate, a mixture made up of ruptured melanoma cells, to fill microneedles embedded in the polymeric transdermal patch so the immune system “remembers” the melanoma lysate, the release said.
“This demonstrates that the technology could have potential in targeting both cancer metastasis and primary tumors,” Dr. Gianpietro Dotti, co-author and professor of microbiology and immunology at the UNC School of Medicine and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in the announcement.
The paper, “A melanin-mediated cancer immunotherapy patch,” has been published in the Science Immunology medical journal.