NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Nanoparticles, a key element to Moderna’s and Phizer’s COVID vaccines, could make treating cancer as easy as a simple skin injection, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Thursday.

The three main types of skin cancer – basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma – combined are by far the most common cancers in the world. Usually, it’s only melanoma that can be fatal, but all three often require surgery or electro-cautery to remove and, hopefully, cure.

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Depending on the cancer’s location, such as the face, that treatment can leave disfiguring scars.

“If we can treat that with simple injection in the time it might take, for example, to numb up a lesion for surgical excision, there’s a potential to have it already have been treated,” said Dr. Michael Girardi of the Yale University School of Medicine.

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That’s exactly what dermatologist Dr. Girardi and colleagues at Yale just published – a way to inject a cancer treatment directly into skin tumors.

The secret is tiny, biodegradable nanoparticles that stick to the surface of the cancer cells and to the glue that holds the tumor together. And they stay there.

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Under the microscope, you can see nanoparticles in white and red surrounding the cancer cells and being ingested into the cells. The nanoparticles have been loaded with cancer-killing chemotherapy that’s released just into the tumor.

“The medicine would still be inside the patient in that skin cancer as we’ve delivered it. And so it would be utilized over a period of weeks to treat the tumor,” said Girardi.

Better yet, the sticky particles can also be loaded with drugs that stimulate the immune system to also attack the cancer. In theory, this approach could be used against any cancer that you can stick a needle into.

So far, it’s only been done on animals. Clinicals trials on humans are being planned.

But it will probably be a few years before nanoparticle injections are tested and ready for use in humans.

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Dr. Max Gomez