Source: Nanjing Tech University/China Pharmaceutical University Source: Nanjing Tech University/China Pharmaceutical University

Melanoma patients often endure the risks and side effects of surgery, radiation therapy and intravenous chemotherapy. Topical delivery of chemotherapy may enable patients to side-step these painful and invasive procedures while targeting tumors in a more direct manner.

Researchers in China have formulated a paintable oligopeptide hydrogel containing the anti-cancer drug paclitaxel. The chemotherapy agent is encapsulated in transfersome nanoparticles composed of a phospholipid bilayer and surfactants that facilitate infiltration of the drug into the skin. A peptide added to the nanoparticle surface also promotes particle penetration of the skin as well as tumor cells.

The hydrogel was tested by painting tumors of melanoma-affected mice once daily in a treatment regimen augmented with intravenous paclitaxel every other day. Tumor size was halved after 12 days relative to animals treated with intravenous paclitaxel alone.

The researchers from Nanjing Tech University and China Pharmaceutical University acknowledge that this is a preliminary step in developing a gel that patients themselves could apply to a skin tumor.

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