Pain-free vaccine patch might one day prevent melanoma

Melanoma and other diseases could soon be treated - if not prevented entirely - by vaccine patches. 

Researchers in the US have developed a way of getting drugs into a patient's system that work better than ointments, don't hurt like injections and only have to be worn for a minute. 

"Our patch technology could be used to deliver vaccines to combat different infectious diseases," said Paula Hammond, whose team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created the 15mm-across patch. 

"But we are excited by the possibility that the patch is another tool in the oncologists' arsenal against cancer, specifically melanoma."

Patches have been used to deliver drugs before, but the researchers say they often take up to 90 minutes to work.

"Our patches elicit a robust antibody response in living mice and show promise in eliciting a strong immune response in human skin," said grad student Yanpu He.

New Zealand has the highest melanoma rate in the world - around 2500 Kiwis a year are diagnosed with the disease. 

The new microneedle patches were able to elicit nine times the antibody response in than 'intramuscular' injections (like those used for the flu) and 160 times more than subcutaneous injections (that go just under the skin). 

"We are using low-cost chemistry and a simple fabrication scheme to transform vaccination," Dr Hammond said. "Ultimately, we want to get a device approved and on the market."

The next step is testing on melanoma tumours in mice.

The patches were unveiled on Sunday at the American Chemical Society's Fall 2019 National Meeting. 



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