Researchers at University of British Columbia have constructed a new laser probe that does not require expensive cameras or lenses, and therefore should cost a few hundred dollars to make. The device can distinguish cancerous from non-cancerous tissues by determining the optical polarisation of different skin lesions, and the researchers say it can provide an easily understandable numerical result.
Tim Lee, study supervisor and an associate professor of skin science and dermatology at UBC, said: “A cancer screening tool should be administered by a trained health care professional who would know where the patient needs to go afterwards. We have so few dermatologists relative to the growing number of skin cancers that are occurring. If we can develop a device that can be integrated easily into other parts of the health care system, we can simplify the screening process and potentially save hundreds if not thousands of lives.”
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Daniel Louie, a PhD student who constructed the device as part of his studies in biomedical engineering at UCB, said: “With skin cancer, there’s a saying that if you can spot it you can stop it, and that’s exactly what this probe is designed to do. Because cancer cells are denser, larger and more irregularly shaped than normal cells, they cause distinctive scattering in the light waves as they pass through. We were able to invent a novel way to interpret these patterns instantaneously. We set out to develop this technology using inexpensive materials, so the final device would be easy to manufacture and widely used as a preliminary screening tool for skin cancer.”