Researchers of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, today, stated that they have developed a non- invasive bandage made with magnetic nanofibres to treat skin cancer by administering heat to the tumor cells. The major cause of skin cancer is excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.
There are mainly two types of skin cancer: Melanoma, which develops from pigment-producing cells in the skin called melanocytes, and non-melanoma, which develops from other skin cells.
According to Bengaluru-based IISc, non-melanoma skin cancer is more widespread; melanoma is malignant and has a higher mortality rate. The common treatments for skin cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy but these treatments and other conventional therapies have some limitations.
Hyperthermia is a promising alternative that has emerged to treat skin cancer, in which heat is applied to the affected tissues.
IISc noted a statement on Thursday that the researchers have been working on developing ways of delivering heat to the tumor tissues so that cancer cells are targeted selectively and effectively
Among which one such technology is called magnetic hyperthermia, in which magnetic nanoparticles are used to heat the tumors by using an external alternating current magnetic field (AMF). But it is difficult to achieve uniform heating of the affected tissues using such magnetic nanoparticles because of uncontrolled aggregation. They can also accumulate in the human body and induce toxicity.
Researchers from the Centre for BioSystems Science and Engineering (BSSE) and the Department of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics (MRDG) at IISc have developed a bandage with a unique blend of magnetic nanoparticles fabricated using a method called electrospinning.
This bandage comprises nanoparticles made from an oxide of iron, Fe3O4, and a biodegradable polymer called polycaprolactone (PCL) pasted on surgical tape.
The magnetic material generates heat when it is subjected to a high-frequency oscillating magnetic field.
Therefore the researchers did two experiments to investigate whether the heat generated and dissipated by the magnetic bandage can treat skin cancer:
One was in vitro on human cancer cell lines and the other was in vivo on mice with artificially-induced skin cancer.
Kaushik Suneet, a former project associate at BSSE and the first author of the study said, “The protocol used to prepare the PCL-Fe3O4 fibrous mat-based bandage took a little more than two months to optimize; however, the in vitro and in vivo tests that involved the testing of the magnetic thermal therapy took quite some time to optimize.
In both experiments, the heat generated by applying AMF to the nanofibrous magnetic bandage killed the cancer cells successfully. Moreover, in the in vivo experiment, the healthy tissue remained intact with no signs of burns, inflammation, or thickening.
“The elevated temperature at the treatment site enables heat to penetrate the tumor cells, rupturing the compact random vasculatures (a network of blood vessels) of the tumors,” explained Shilpee Jain, who was a DST-INSPIRE Faculty Fellow at BSSE when the study was conducted and is a senior author of the paper.
“(In contrast), the normal healthy cells, owing to their organized open vasculatures, dissipate the heat to maintain normal temperatures, and so remain unharmed.” Though this novel treatment is effective against skin cancer in lab experiments, it is still at a nascent stage of development as a clinical therapy, the statement said.
“Further studies are required to test the efficacy of this novel treatment method on a larger scale in rabbits, dogs, and monkeys before employing it for pre-clinical and clinical applications,” reminded Jain