Laser-assisted delivery of synergistic combination chemotherapy in in vivo skin

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Abstract

The effectiveness of topical drugs for treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer is greatly reduced by insufficient penetration to deep skin layers. Ablative fractional lasers (AFLs) are known to enhance topical drug uptake by generating narrow microchannels through the skin, but information on AFL-drug delivery in in vivo conditions is limited. In this study, we examined pharmacokinetics, biodistribution and toxicity of two synergistic chemotherapy agents, cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), following AFL-assisted delivery alone or in combination in in vivo porcine skin. Detected at 0–120 h using mass spectrometry techniques, we demonstrated that fractional CO2 laser pretreatment (196 microchannels/cm2, 852 μm ablation depth) leads to rapid drug uptake in 1500 μm deep skin layers, with a sixfold enhancement in peak cisplatin concentrations versus non-laser-treated controls (5 h, P = 0.005). Similarly, maximum 5-FU deposition was measured within an hour of AFL-delivery, and exceeded peak deposition in non-laser-exposed skin that had undergone topical drug exposure for 5 days. Overall, this accelerated and deeper cutaneous drug uptake resulted in significantly increased inflammatory and histopathological effects. Based on clinical scores and transepidermal water loss measurement, AFL intensified local toxic responses to drugs delivered alone and in combination, while systemic drug exposure remained undetectable. Quantitative histopathologic analyses correspondingly revealed significantly reduced epidermal proliferation and greater cellular apoptosis after AFL-drug delivery; particularly after combined cisplatin + 5-FU exposure. In sum, by overcoming the primary limitation of topical drug penetration and providing accelerated, enhanced and deeper delivery, AFL-assisted combination chemotherapy may represent a promising treatment strategy for non-melanoma skin cancer.

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