Melanoma has been treated painfully and ineffectively up to now, but a new, better treatment for this disease has been found, with great potential so far.
Firstly, what is melanoma? Melanoma is often thought to be the only type of skin cancer, but in reality, there are others, however, melanoma is the most common. People usually detect melanoma when a mole develops somewhere on their skin. Although melanoma can occur anywhere on the body, in men it is usually on their backs while in women, melanoma usually appears on their legs. It is unlikely for melanoma to appear in sun-protected areas of the body i.e. armpits, buttocks, scalp, etc. There are many variants of melanomas, with most relatively small in size, but they can grow to become large painful areas on a person’s body. Nodular and aural lentiginous melanoma are the most painful types and coincidentally the largest types as well. Search these variants of melanoma, only if you are not feeling squeamish!
The reason for the development of melanoma and most skin cancers is UV light. This type of light has a very high frequency and therefore stores a lot of energy, which means it has enough energy to cause harmful mutations in skin cells, causing melanomas and other skin cancers to develop.
Until recently, melanomas would be treated in the following way. Small melanomas are quite easy to remove especially at an early stage through the use of surgery. Radiation therapy is also used as a non-invasive method of preventing melanomas from increasing in size.
Although these treatments do not seem to have many downsides, surgery can damage other important parts of a person’s body permanently in the case of serious melanomas. Furthermore, radiation therapy is just not effective enough against an aggressive melanoma. Therefore, only one avenue is really left with aggressive melanomas, drug therapy. Drug therapy includes immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and the most well-known, chemotherapy. Previously, I mentioned some of the most painful and big melanomas, nodular, and aural lentiginous melanoma. As drug therapy usually uses needles, the drugs have to be administered under the skin, or within the melanoma. Chemotherapy is the most effective drug therapy overall for cancers. However, for a person with the more painful melanomas, a needle under the affected area can be excruciating, especially as a general anaesthetic is usually not used when the drugs are being administered. The problem has been that with the more painful melanomas, chemotherapy and other drug treatments are often the best course of action, but are extremely painful for the patient at times.
Topical chemotherapy is different in design to traditional chemotherapy. Topical chemotherapy advances have made treating melanomas safer, with less toxicity and lower chances of side effects. However, as with normal chemotherapy, needles are used, and are used more on the site of the melanomas than in traditional chemotherapy. Even though topical chemotherapy is more successful for melanomas than the traditional version, it is much more painful for patients, which scientists have been trying to stop happening as it is reducing the numbers of patients using topical chemotherapy, despite its higher success rates.
Wearable patches are the latest and most promising answer to the biggest issue facing topical and traditional chemotherapy: pain. This new wearable patch design is transparent and has completely miniaturised needles covering its inside, meaning that non-obtrusive drug delivery for melanoma chemotherapy can take place. This results in no pain for the patient in what is usually a time-consuming, excruciating treatment. The drugs are released over months, meaning that the patch should not have to be replaced much. The micro-needles are made of silicon and will degrade and dissolve by the time all of the drug in the patch is administered.
Removing melanomas through surgery is the preferred way to treat most skin cancers. However, in aggressive melanomas, wearable patches will almost certainly be the future of topical and traditional chemotherapy.
Cancer is often seen as the end for patients who are diagnosed with this crippling disease. But although cures for cancer and few and wide, treatments for cancers are improving at a mind-blowing rate. The future seems bright for skin cancer treatment and overall cancer treatment, especially in the case of chemotherapy.
- Berman, R., 2020. Researchers Develop A Wearable Patch For Melanoma. [online] Medicalnewstoday.com. Available at: <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/researchers-develop-a-wearable-patch-for-melanoma#Overcoming-the-challenge-posed-by-pain> [Accessed 28 June 2020].
- Adam, C., 2020. Wearable Patch May Provide New Treatment Option For Skin Cancer. [online] ScienceDaily. Available at: <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200616083349.htm> [Accessed 28 June 2020].
- Featured Image – Laguipo, A., 2019. Study Hints Why Some Melanomas More Likely To Spread. [online] News-Medical.net. Available at: <https://www.news-medical.net/news/20191219/Study-hints-why-some-melanomas-more-likely-to-spread.aspx> [Accessed 28 June 2020].