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Topical Patches for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer: Collaboration May Conquer Challenges

By: Joshua D. Madera, MD
Posted: Thursday, February 1, 2024

Given the limited extent of penetration and patient adherence to topical drugs for the management of non-melanoma skin cancer, current investigative efforts have focused on establishing novel drug delivery modalities in the hope of overcoming this barrier to treatment, according to a study published in Pharmaceutics. The use of topical patches as a mechanism to deliver personalized combination therapy may be a potential therapeutic strategy; however, the successful enactment of this treatment modality will require collaborative efforts from clinicians, researchers, and industry, explained Sanjay Garg, PhD, of the University of South Australia, Adelaide, and colleagues.

Microneedle array patches have emerged as minimally invasive drug delivery modalities that may minimize pain, because they penetrate the subcutaneous tissue without infiltrating the underlying nerves. Compared with topical drugs, microneedle array patches penetrate the skin more deeply with a favorable safety profile, the study authors commented. In addition, polymeric patches—including the drug-in-adhesive and matrix-type patches—were developed as alternative options, given their ability to be easily modified and perhaps more suitable for the heterogeneity of skin cancer. Similarly, they improved the extent of drug penetration and may potentially enhance the benefits of anticancer treatment. Moreover, hydrogels were newly designed drug delivery systems that advanced individualized treatment strategies through their controllable degradation rates and drug-encapsulation capabilities.

Despite these advancements, these drug delivery modalities face various challenges. Non-melanoma skin cancer is unpredictable regarding its clinical presentation, noted the investigators, and it can manifest as a nodule, plaque, or lesion with hyperkeratosis. These clinical variations limit the penetration of the drug, as well as their overall efficacy. Finally, patient adherence is a difficult barrier to overcome, they added, given the discomfort and inconvenience associated with the patches.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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