Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Virtual Biopsy Detects Skin Cancer

A scientist at Rutgers University has developed a novel biopsy device that can take a "virtual biopsy". The quick procedure is able to determine a skin lesion's potential malignancy as well as its depth, without being invasive to the patient. Currently, physicians do not know the extent of a skin tumor until they've already begun the surgery to remove it. For this reason, the device's noninvasive nature making it less risky and stressful, is appealing to both patients and physicians.

 

“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," says head researcher Frederick Silver, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Rutgers University. "It’s a significant improvement over surgical biopsies, which are invasive, expensive and time consuming.”

 

The virtual biopsy prototype device can distinguish between healthy skin and different types of skin lesions and carcinomas.
The virtual biopsy prototype device can distinguish between healthy skin and different types of skin lesions and carcinomas. Credit: Rutgers University

From the Rutgers University article: "The first-of-its-kind experimental procedure, called vibrational optical coherence tomography (VOCT), creates a 3-D map of the legion’s width and depth under the skin with a tiny laser diode. It also uses soundwaves to test the lesion’s density and stiffness since cancer cells are stiffer than healthy cells. An inch-long speaker applies audible soundwaves against the skin to measure the skin’s vibrations and determine whether the lesion is malignant.

The study found that a prototype VOCT device, which awaits FDA approval for large-scale testing, is able to accurately distinguish between healthy skin and different types of skin lesions and carcinomas. The researchers tested the device over six months on four skin excisions and on eight volunteers without skin lesions. 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."

 

Read more about the virtual biopsy that detects tumors at Rutgers University