Infrared Fiber-Optic Sensing System for Early Detection of Melanoma

Background: Melanoma is an aggressive skin cancer that causes the majority of deaths related to skin cancers worldwide. Its annual incidence has increased dramatically over the past few decades. Melanoma thickness is directly related to its prognosis; while curable at early stages, higher mortality is associated with thicker, more advanced, tumors. Therefore, an early detection of melanoma is crucial for patients’ survival. The mid-IR spectroscopic method is capable of detecting such transformations at very early stages by assigning spectroscopic fingerprints to the various forms of disease, such as cancers of different kinds.

Methods: The Applied Physics Group at Tel Aviv University (TAU) developed a novel system for measuring the mid-IR spectrum of biological tissues, without a need for biopsy. It is based on middle-infrared transmitting optical fibers. We carried out preliminary measurements on the skins of patients at the Dermatology Department, at the Tel Aviv Medical Center. When a tumor suspected as melanoma was revealed, we carried out mid-IR spectral measurement. The tumor was then biopsied and sent to traditional histopathology, to determine whether it was melanoma. We performed successful measurements on 90 patients.

Results: Out of the 90 patients only 5 had melanoma. We developed an algorithm to distinguish between the mid-IR spectra of the melanoma lesions and the non-melanoma ones. Clear spectral differences are seen between pathological and benign samples. The preliminary application of our algorithm was very promising.

Conclusion: Based on the preliminary results obtained we propose this method for noninvasive melanoma detection on a patient’s skin.

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