Researchers at NCSU and UNC-CH have developed a potential vaccine for the treatment of cancer by utilizing melanin, a natural pigment that can transform sunlight into heat.

In a study, the researchers in the joint NCSU-UNC biomedical engineering program say experiments in a mouse model showed the potential. The heat would be transferred through a transdermal patch.

“Melanin is a natural pigment that can efficiently transform absorbed sunlight energy into heat,” Zhen Gu,an associate professor, told NCSU News Service.

“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.”

All of the mice that received the patch that contains lysate ( a tumor puree, made up of ruptured melanoma cells) and IR light survived after two months, and 87 percent of them had no tumors, the scientists reported.

“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,” added Yanqi Ye, lead author of the study.

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