Researchers are developing a skin cancer treatment that involves injecting nanoparticles into the tumour, killing cancer cells with a two-pronged approach, as a potential alternative to surgery.

The results, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that an injection-based therapy would also mean that patients could have multiple tumours treated in a single visit.

According to the researchers, for the treatment, tumours are injected with polymer-based nanoparticles carrying a chemotherapy agent.

Key to the treatment’s success is that the nanoparticles are bioadhesive — that is, they bind to the tumours and remain attached long enough to kill a significant number of the cancer cells, the researchers said.

“When you inject our nanoparticles into a tumour, it turns out that they’ve retained within that tumour very well,” said co-author Mark Saltzman from the Yale University.

“They accumulate and bind to the tumour matrix, so one single injection lasts for a very long time — the particles stay there and slowly release the compounds. You need that to get rid of the lesion,” Saltzman added.

For comparison, the same drug was injected freely into tumours of control models without the nanoparticles.

They found that the tumours were significantly more diminished when the drugs were delivered by nanoparticles.

Also critical to the therapy is that the treatment can be combined with an agent that stimulates the body’s immune system, the team said.

In many cases, getting rid of tumours with an injection could eliminate the need for surgery, the researchers said.

It may also then avoid potential wound infections and other complications. Additionally, some patients with other medical conditions are poor candidates for surgery.