A Sound Method for Detecting Skin Cancer
Melanoma is a common skin cancer often caused by too much sun and it's hard to get rid of in advanced stages.
"Our device could tell them, are the tumor cells that are circulating, are they increasing in number?" said MU biological engineer John Viator. "Are they decreasing in number? Meaning, are you getting worse, or are you getting better?"
Current detection methods only work for patients who already have a tumor about the size of a marble.
"Wouldn't it be nice if I could draw some blood and say, 'You're cancer-free. You're doing okay,'" asked oncologist Paul Dale, "versus 'come back in another three months and we'll do another CAT scan.'"
After blood work, the sample goes to a lab where lasers zap it. If melanoma is present, the cells make a sound that only a machine can detect. If the machine's graph spikes, melanoma is present.
"The bad thing about melanoma is that we don't have very good chemotherapy, and we don't have very good radiation therapy," Dale explained, "so the only good way of treating it is to remove it."
By detecting the cancer before a tumor forms, a patient is more likely to survive. Viator wants to use this method in other areas, such as breast cancer.
Melanoma is one of the fastest-growing cancers in the U.S., where about one in every 50 people develops it each year.