Conventional melanoma 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 their widespread uses have been hindered by both the painful size of the microneedles and the rapidly dissolving behavior of polymers used in the treatments.

Now, Purdue University innovators have created a novel wearable patch to help address the issues and provide an improved treatment experience for people with melanoma. The technology is published in the journal ACS Nano.

“We developed a novel wearable patch with fully miniaturized needles, enabling unobtrusive drug delivery through the skin for the management of skin cancers,” says Chi Hwan Lee, a Purdue assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering. “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.”

Lee says this gradual slow dissolution of the silicon nanoneedles allows for long-lasting and sustainable delivery of cancer therapeutics.

This image shows a bioresorbable wearable skin patch comprised with fully miniaturized silicon needles for the management of skin cancers. (Credit: Purdue University)

“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 says.

The innovators developed a novel design of bioresorbable silicon nanoneedles that are built on a thin, flexible, and water-soluble medical film. The water-soluble film serves as a temporary holder that can be conformably interfaced with the soft, curvilinear 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 provides a large drug-loading capacity comparable to those using conventional microneedles.

Lee says the nanoneedles could deliver the chemotherapeutic drugs to target melanoma sites in a sustainable manner. The silicon nanoneedles are biocompatible and dissolvable in tissue fluids, such that they can be completely resorbed in the body over months in a harmless manner.

Lee says he started working on this type of technology after seeing his daughter express fearful thoughts about needles when receiving vaccinations.

This work is supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR: FA2386-18-1-40171). The team worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent this technology. The office recently moved into the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus. Lee’s team worked with Yoon Yeo from Purdue’s College of Pharmacy and Dong Rip Kim at Hanyang University in South Korea to develop and test the technology.

The researchers are looking for partners to continue developing their technology.

This article was written by Chris Adam, Purdue University. For more information on licensing and other opportunities, contact Patrick Finnerty of OTC at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and mention track code 2020-LEE-68893. For more information, visit here .


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This article first appeared in the August, 2020 issue of Medical Design Briefs Magazine.

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