Scientists Develop New 'Virtual Biopsy' Device for Skin Cancer
US researchers have developed a new "virtual biopsy" device that can quickly determine a skin lesion's depth and potential malignancy. According to a report in Wiley Online Library, the ability to analyze a skin tumor non-invasively could make biopsies much less risky and distressing to patients.
Physicians who perform surgical biopsies often don't know the extent of a lesion, and whether it will be necessary to refer the patient to a specialist for extensive tissue removal.
The German News Agency reported that the first-of-its-kind experimental procedure, developed by a team of researchers at the Rutgers University, creates a 3-D map of the legion's width and depth under the skin with a tiny laser diode. It also uses sound waves to test the lesion's density and stiffness since cancer cells are stiffer than healthy cells.
The device is also equipped with a speaker that applies audible sound waves to measure the skin's vibrations and determine whether the lesion is malignant.
The Science Daily cited Frederick Silver, a professor at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, saying: "This procedure can be completed in 15 minutes with no discomfort to the patient, who feels no sensation from the light or the nearly inaudible sound."
Silver also sees "the new device is a significant improvement over surgical biopsies, which are invasive, expensive and time consuming."
The researchers said further studies are needed to fine-tune the device's ability to identify a lesion's borders and areas of greatest density and stiffness, which would allow physicians to remove tumors with minimally invasive surgery.