London: Scientists have developed a hand-held device which delivers a "turbo-charged" vaccine into muscles to treat malignant melanoma, an aggressive type of skin cancer that kills thousands every year.
Developed by researchers in the UK, the device contains a syringe needle and four electrodes.
It`s held against the patient`s upper arm or leg – while the needle contains the vaccine itself, a brief electrical pulse from the electrodes creates an opening which allows the DNA to enter cells.
The researchers said the use of electricity can boost the treatment`s potency by 100-fold, the Daily Mail reported.
The device is currently being tested on 22 patients with malignant melanoma at four British hospitals. But researchers hope it could also help with a number of other cancers such as lung, throat, liver, stomach, prostate, ovarian and bladder.
The vaccine used in the device to treat cancer contains the same DNA sequence as some of the antigens -- the proteins that sit on the outside of the cells and act as a flag or marker, giving away the cell`s identity.
Once injected into the body, it sparks a reaction in the immune system, priming it to see the antigens as an invader.
According to the researchers, if the electricity was not used, the DNA would float around the outside of cells and would take longer to trigger the immune system.
But when injected into cells it immediately triggers alarm signals around the body, and immune cells are recruited to the site of the injection.