A tiny skin implant that when introduced into the body with careful engineering can destroy cancerous tumours has been developed by scientists.
Bioengineers and immunologists at Harvard University developed the fingernail-sized implant the use of which eliminated melanoma tumors in mice.
The new approach uses plastic disks impregnated with tumor-specific antigens and implanted under the skin.
It redirects the immune system and targets only tumour cells, avoiding collateral damage elsewhere in the body.
David J. Mooney, the Robert P. Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering in Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering said:
"This work shows the power of applying engineering approaches to immunology.
"By marrying engineering and immunology through this collaboration with Glenn Dranoff at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, we've taken a major step toward the design of effective cancer vaccines."
Mooney added: "Inserted anywhere under the skin-much like the implantable contraceptives that can be placed in a woman's arm-the implants activate an immune response that destroys tumour cells."
The expert envisions the technique may help avoid the need for surgery and chemotherapy and could also be useful in combination with existing therapies.
The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.