Taiwanese researchers discover early detection method for skin cancer
A research team at prestigious National Taiwan University (NTU) has developed a noninvasive technology that can help detect melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancers, by up to six months earlier than usual.
The team hopes its high-speed and high resolution optical coherence tomography scanner can receive medical certification by as early as 2017 so that it can put it into clinical use as soon as possible.
Diagnosing cancer relies primarily on observing tissues and cells, and that is where the scanner can be useful in a timely way, said Shun Chia-tung, a doctor with National Taiwan University Hospital's Department of Pathology.
If combined with an endoscope, the technology can also help detect diseases such as colon cancer at an early stage, Shun said at a press conference in Taipei.
The NTU research team is headed by Huang Sheng-lung, a professor with the university's Department of Electrical Engineering, who said the technology provides quick access to dynamic images of body tissues and blood cells, helping doctors make an early diagnosis without a biopsy.
The scanner is non-invasive and has a resolution of 0.01 millimeters and a nearly 90 percent detection rate, Huang said.
It also takes much less time than a regular biopsy, for which patients usually need to wait up to a day for the test results to be known, Huang said.
The research, which has gone on for more than a decade, has been tested in clinical trials at teaching hospitals up and down the country, mainly to help identify skin cancer.
Exclusive rights to the technology have been sold to a startup company for nearly NT$30 million, and it is hoped that clinical applications can start soon after the medical certification process is completed by 2017 at the earliest, Huang said.