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A New Diagnostic Tool for Skin Cancer Detection

At a glance


Due to sun exposure and aging of the population, skin cancer is exploding in industrialized countries becoming a major health issue. Just in Switzerland, 15 000 new cases are diagnosed every year making skin cancer the most general form of cancer. The current diagnostic of skin cancer is essentially clinical and relies on the visual examination of the lesion. The treatment of cancerous cutaneous lesions is invasive and expensive because this visual assessment cannot always show the lateral extension of the tumor and do not give information about its penetration depth. In this context, an objective tool improving the diagnostic is urgently required. The Institute of Computational Physics (ICP) of the Zürich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) has recently developed a new diagnostic system based on lock-in thermal imaging. Due to its ability to measure transient skin temperature signals, the apparatus provides dermatologists with a way to see below the skin surface, so they can: excise the tumor in one operation reducing multi-step procedures; safely use less invasive treatments such as topical applications or photodynamic therapy when possible; reduce the number of unnecessary excisions of benign or very superficial lesions. Our first prototype is now at the Geneva University Hospitals for a clinical evaluation and a ZHAW spin-off company has been recently founded for the future commercialization of the diagnostic tool. Nonetheless, to prepare a successful market entry, further developments concerning the device are urgently required. Those concern mainly the performances of the device inspection head, in contact with the patient body, and the mobile unit generating the thermal stimulation. In addition to those developments, the project will also obtain all the required medical certifications for a successful commercialization in the EU. Finally, the potential of the Dermolockin device for the diagnostic of other dermatological diseases will be explored.