September 23, 2017 |
New 3-in-1 Optical Skin Cancer Probe May Reduce Unnecessary Biopsies
August 6, 2014  | 

Austin, TX - Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering have now developed a probe that combines into one device three unique ways of using light to measure the properties of skin tissue and detect cancer. The researchers have begun testing their 3-in-1 device in pilot clinical trials and are partnering with funding agencies and start-up companies to help bring the device to dermatologists’ offices.

The researchers describe the skin cancer probe in a new paper published in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, from AIP Publishing.

Skin cancers of all types are the most common forms of cancer in North America, and melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is one of the leading causes of cancer death, killing nearly 10,000 people every year in the United States.

Currently, the only definitive way to diagnose skin cancer is to perform a biopsy, in which doctors remove a suspect skin lesion and then examine the stained tissue under a microscope to look for cancerous cells. Determining which lesions to biopsy is an imprecise art, however, and for every case of skin cancer detected there are roughly 25 negative biopsies performed, translating to a cost of $6 billion to the U.S. health care system, according to estimations performed by the researchers.

James Tunnell, an associate professor in the biomedical engineering department at UT, believes the new probe developed by his team could eventually help reduce the high number and cost of negative biopsies by giving a clear picture of which skin lesions are most likely cancerous. He and his colleagues combined three common spectroscopic techniques – Raman spectroscopy, diffuse reflectance spectroscopy, and laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy – into one probe to create a more complete picture of a skin lesion. By revealing information invisible to the human eye, the probe could offer a better screening tool for cancer and eliminate many negative biopsies. Continue>

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