Scientists from Rutgers University have developed a novel “Virtual Biopsy” device that can rapidly detect a skin lesion’s depth and determine whether it is malignant or not without the need for any surgical intervention. This ability to analyze a skin tumor non-invasively enables less risky and less distressing environments for patients.
Photo credit: Rutgers University
Most of the time, doctors who perform invasive biopsies do not know the extent of the lesion and whether it will be necessary to get a specialists for extensive tissue removal or a plastic surgeon involved until the surgery in underway, which can be rather risky at times.
The new device uses a combination of sound vibrations and pulses of near-infrared light. Called vibrational optical coherence tomography (VOCT), a 3-D map is first created of the legion's width and depth under the skin with a tiny laser diode. Then soundwaves are used to test the lesion's density and stiffness since cancer cells are stiffer than normal cells. An inch-long speaker sends audible soundwaves against the skin to measure the skin's vibrations and determine whether the lesion is malignant or benign.
Team leader, Professor Frederick Silver,a pathologists at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in a phone interview with Thailand Medical News said,”The procedure can be completed within 15 minutes with no discomfort to the patient, neither the light nor the sound can be felt. It’s a improvement over time consuming and expensive invasive surgical biopsies.”
The VOCT device is able to accurately distinguish between healthy skin and different types of skin lesions and carcinomas. The team tested the device over six months on four skin excisions and on eight volunteers without skin lesions.
The device is now pending FDA approval for large scale testing and further research is needed to fine-tune the device's ability to identify a lesion's borders and areas of greatest density and stiffness, which would allow doctors to remove tumors with minimally invasive surgery.
Reference: Frederick H. Silver et al, Comparative "virtual biopsies" of normal skin and skin lesions using vibrational optical coherence tomography, Skin Research and Technology (2019).DOI: 10.1111/srt.12712