Researchers develop a skin cancer treatment that involves injecting nanoparticles into the tumor, killing cancer cells
Yale researchers are developing a skin cancer treatment that involves injecting nanoparticles into the tumor, killing cancer cells with a two-pronged approach, as a potential alternative to surgery. The results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “For a lot of patients, treating skin cancer is much more involved than it would be if there was a way to effectively treat them with a simple procedure like an injection,” said Dr. Michael Girardi, professor and vice chair of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine and senior author of the study. For the treatment, tumors are injected with polymer-based nanoparticles carrying a chemotherapy agent. Key to the treatment’s success is that the nanoparticles are bioadhesive — that is, they bind to the tumors and remain attached long enough to kill a significant number of the cancer cells.
“When you inject our nanoparticles into a tumor, it turns out that they’re retained within that tumor very well,” said co-author Mark Saltzman, the Goizueta Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, and professor of physiology. For comparison, the same drug was injected freely into tumors of control models without the nanoparticles. They found that the tumors were significantly more diminished when the drugs were delivered by nanoparticles. In many cases, ridding tumors with an injection could eliminate the need for surgery, the researchers said. It may also then avoid potential wound infections and other complications. Additionally, some patients with other medical conditions are poor candidates for surgery. An injection-based therapy would also mean that patients could have multiple tumors treated in a single visit. “In these studies, we did just a single injection, and that's how we’d like it to work clinically,” Saltzman said. “You go to a dermatologist, they see a lesion and inject into it, and it’s gone and you don't have to come back.”
Saltzman’s lab, which specializes in nanoparticles, worked to optimize the particles’ drug-carrying ability to deliver as much of the chemotherapy agent in a single dose as possible. Because the contents of the nanoparticle remain at the site of the tumor, the delivery system allows for the use of particularly powerful drugs. Conventional chemotherapy affects the entire body and can have severe side effects, so the toxicity of drugs is more limited.
(Source: Yale University news release)