Cancer Detection: Laser Doppler records bloodflow to enable early melanoma detection

A laser Doppler system able to detect the subtle differences in blood flow beneath the skin has allowed researchers—at Pisa University (Italy) and Lancaster University (England)—to distinguish between malignant melanoma and noncancerous moles.1 The noninvasive technique aims to speed tissue assessment and spare patients painful biopsies.

Noninvasive laser Doppler scanning of vasculature beneath moles has enabled detection of markers indicating melanoma.

"Skin malignant melanoma is a particularly aggressive cancer associated with quick blood vessel growth," said Prof. Marco Rossi of Pisa University, where 55 patients agreed to have their atypical moles scanned for about 30 minutes while the laser Doppler system recorded complex interactions in the subdermal blood vessels.

Then, Lancaster physicists analyzed fluctuations in recorded signals. "We used our knowledge of blood flow dynamics to pick up on markers which were consistently different in the blood vessels supplying malignant moles and those beneath normal skin," said Prof. Aneta Stefanovska of Lancaster University.

While American reviewers emphasize that further research is needed, and the system would need to overcome hurdles to be adopted, the results are promising: The test identified melanoma in all cases where it was present, and produced less than 10% false positives.

1. G. Lancaster et al., Sci. Rep., 5, 12825 (2015); doi:10.1038/srep12825.

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