Topical Delivery of Natural Tanning Active Ingredient for Melanoma Prevention Using Peptides Selective for Melanocortin Receptor 1

Case ID:

This invention is the topical delivery of a natural peptide ingredient to aid in the production of melanin without exposure to UV radiation. The product is stable and selective for the human melanocortin-1 receptor (hMC1R), avoiding off-target effects with non-selective melanocortin ligands.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, causing the majority of skin cancer deaths. Exposure to UV radiation is the primary risk factor for melanoma. Skin pigmentation, on the other hand, is an effective protection against melanoma. Melanocytes can produce melanin, which is able to dissipate over 99.9% of UV radiation. Skin pigmentation is regulated by the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) on melanocytes. Activation of MC1R by melanocyte stimulating hormones (MSH) activates MC1R and is also able to activate other melanocortin receptors, which regulate a variety of physiological processes. Thus, there is a need to improve selectivity to MC1R for MSHs to trigger skin pigmentation for melanoma prevention without interfering with other physiological functions.


  • Reduce the risk of skin cancer in high risk populations
  • Safe tanning involving no UV exposure


  • Stable in serum against proteolytic breakdown
  • No need to use chemicals found in common sunscreens, which may have deleterious health or environmental effects
  • No UV exposure is required to increase the production of melanin

Status: issued U.S. patent #10,188,704

Patent Information:
Contact For More Information:
Laura Silva
Sr. Licensing Manager, COS
The University of Arizona
Lead Inventor(s):
Minying Cai
Victor Hruby