"Using a small blood sample, our device and method will provide an earlier diagnosis for aggressive melanoma cancers," John Viator, associate professor of biomedical engineering and dermatology, said yesterday in a statement.
The photoacoustic device directs laser light into the blood sample, and that light is absorbed by melanin within the cancerous cells. As the lasers quickly heat and cool those cells, they expand. Technicians are able to spot the cancerous cells by looking for this expansion--the aforementioned black 18-wheeler.
"There are several melanoma drugs on the horizon," Viator said. "Combined with the new photoacoustic detection method, physicians will be able to use targeted therapies and personalized treatments, changing the medical management of this aggressive cancer."
Viator has already signed a commercialization license to allow scientists to use the device for research. His team is also organizing clinical studies in the hopes of getting FDA approval for broader use, which could take a few years. The final device, Viator says, will likely resemble a desktop printer.