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Researchers Develop Handheld Device For Painless Identification Of Skin Cancer

Researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology are in the process of developing a low-cost handheld machine, which can bring down the instances of unnecessary biopsies in skin cancer cases by half. The handheld device will also offer dermatologists and other doctors' easy access to laboratory-grade cancer diagnostics.

Negar Tavassolian, director of the Bio-Electromagnetics Laboratory at Stevens, said of the new discovery, "We aren't trying to get rid of biopsies. But we do want to give doctors additional tools and help them to make better decisions."

The device designed by the team uses millimeter-wave imaging, which is the same technology used in airport security scanners to scan a patient's skin. When the device is used, healthy tissue reflects millimeter-wave rays differently than cancerous tissue, so doctors can spot cancers by monitoring contrasts in the rays reflected from the skin.

To bring this device into clinical practice, the researchers used algorithms to fuse signals captured by different antennas into a single ultrahigh-bandwidth image, thus reducing noise and quickly securing high-resolution images of even the tiniest mole or blemish.

The research team used a tabletop version of their technology to study 71 patients during clinical visits, and found their methods could correctly differentiate between benign and malignant lesions in very less time. Using their device, the researchers could identify cancerous skin.

Commenting on the developments, Tavassolian said, "There are other advanced imaging technologies that can detect skin cancers, but they're big, expensive machines that aren't available in the clinic. We're creating a low-cost device that's as small and as easy to use as a cellphone, so we can bring advanced diagnostics within reach for everyone."

The next step ahead for the researchers is to pack the team's diagnostic kit onto an integrated circuit, a step, which could soon allow functional handheld millimeter-wave diagnostic devices to be manufactured for as little as $100 a piece. This is a fraction of the cost of existing hospital-grade diagnostic equipment. The research team is already working on commercializing their technology and hopes to start making these devices available to doctors within the coming two years.

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