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Imaging probe to enhance skin cancer diagnosis

A collaboration between researchers at King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre and British company Michelson Diagnostics is targeting skin cancer with a new type of imaging probe.

The aim of the project is to develop and test a hybrid imaging probe that combines the advantages of Michelson Diagnostics' novel Multi-Beam OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) probe with a visual camera. The OCT and visual images from the hybrid probe will be combined to provide enhanced diagnostic information to clinicians.

Project leader Dr Andrew Coleman, consultant medical physicist at Guy's and St Thomas', explained the benefits of the hybrid probe: 'When interpreting OCT images of sub-surface tissue, it really helps if you know exactly where on the lesion you are scanning, and the hybrid probe will enable this.'

The annual incidence of skin cancer in the UK is estimated to be around 100,000 cases per year, representing 20 per cent of all cancers. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical, particularly in cases of malignant melanoma where tumour growth is often rapid.

Dr Katie Lacy, consultant dermatologist at Guy's and St Thomas', who is leading the clinical validation of the hybrid probe, said: 'The accurate and early diagnosis of malignant skin lesions is vital to ensure the best possible outcome for patients. This new instrument will allow dermatologists to view not only the surface appearance of skin cancer but, for the first time, to also examine the structures under the skin in the clinic. This will hopefully lead to improved diagnostic accuracy and better treatment.'

Michelson Diagnostics has delivered a state-of-the-art VivoSight OCT skin scanner to Guy's Hospital for the project, and the lesions of 93 patients have already been scanned and are being analysed. The scanner will next be modified to incorporate the hybrid probe, and then more patients will be able to benefit from these enhanced scanning techniques.

'I am very excited about this project,' said Carole Letherby, a patient representative on the project team and someone living with skin cancer. 'If successful, it will have a major impact for patients, with less need for painful biopsies, faster treatment decisions, and fewer repeat appointments for further surgery.'

The £98,500 research project has received 75 per cent funding through a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Invention for Innovation 'i4i' grant awarded to the partners, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, King's College London and Michelson Diagnostics Ltd.


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