Washington: Scientists have come up with an important tool in the fight against the most serious type of skin cancer. Being aware of a patient`s melanoma stage is crucial when it comes to choosing the best course of treatment. When the cancer has progressed to the lymph nodes, a more aggressive treatment is needed.
Examining an entire lymph node for cancer takes much effort and time. Now, researchers at University of Missouri are studying how photo acoustics, or a laser-induced ultrasound, could help scientists locate the general area of the lymph node where melanoma cells could be residing. This new technology could help doctors identify the stage of melanoma with more accuracy.
"This method can be used to determine if the cancer has spread from stage 2, where the melanoma is still just in the skin lesion, to stage 3, where the melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes," said John Viator, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Engineering and Department of Dermatology.Currently, pathologists must perform several specific and detailed tests to determine if there is cancer in the lymph nodes.
This new technology could make the search less time-consuming by identifying a general area of the lymph node that might contain cancer.In the photoacoustic method, a tabletop device scans a lymph node biopsy with laser pulses. About 95 percent of melanoma cells contain melanin, the pigment that gives skin its colour, so they react to the laser``s beam, absorbing the light.
The laser causes the cells to heat and cool rapidly, which makes them expand and contract. This produces a popping noise that special sensors can detect. This method would examine the entire biopsy and identify the general area of the node that has cancer, giving pathologists a better idea of where to look for the cancer.The study was published in the Journal of Biomedical Engineering.