Cancer Immunotherapy Uses Melanin Against Melanoma

Researchers have developed a melanin-enhanced cancer immunotherapy technique that can also serve as a vaccine, based on early experiments done in a mouse model. The technique is applied via a transdermal patch.

“Melanin is a natural pigment that can efficiently transform absorbed sunlight energy into heat,” says Zhen Gu, corresponding author of a paper on the work and an associate professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “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 (IR) light on a therapeutic skin patch, which promotes the systemic immune response that fights cancer.”

“There are a lot of immune cells in the skin, and the fundamental concept here is to train the body’s immune system to respond effectively to the presence of melanoma cells – which could both limit the likelihood of developing tumors and help the body fight off tumors that are already established,” says Yanqi Ye, lead author of the work and a Ph.D. student in the joint biomedical engineering program.

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Originally published November 10, 2017. Written by Matt Shipman.

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